The protests that have swept the region this year are a timely reminder that the Middle East can be a dangerous place.
So far, the instability has been domestic. The longer-term danger is there will be a change in the region’s delicately balanced political status quo as new populist regimes take different positions on foreign policy.
Iran and Israel remain contentious issues, but other sources of conflict may also emerge, such as border disputes and foreign agitators sponsored by sympathetic regimes.
For the states that have the luxury of relative stability at home, this is a greater concern than the prospect of protests. With a small population and vast oil wealth, the UAE is, along with Qatar, the least likely to be affected by protests, but it could be vulnerable to political changes that occur in other countries around the region.
The UAE military went some way to addressing those concerns in mid-February at Abu Dhabi’s International Defence Exhibition (Idex). It signed $1.8bn of contracts at the five-day exhibition, including a $270m deal for Black Hawk helicopters. Another $7bn of contracts are due to be signed in the coming months.
The emphasis of the deals was not just on buying the latest hardware for the military. The contracts included large amounts of training, technical and logistical support that will make the UAE more self-sufficient in defence. When instability threatens to unravel so many of your neighbours, the best person to rely on is yourself.