International relations in the Middle East have witnessed a series of de-escalations, and even rapprochements, between regional powers that were involved in trying to project their power during the previous decade of confrontation. None was seemingly more enthusiastic than the United Arab Emirates, which arguably initiated the trend with the Abraham Accords and pioneered de-escalation talks with Iran and diplomatic reengagement with Syria. As a prelude, the UAE withdrew most of its forces from Yemen in 2019. But in January, the Houthis responded to battlefield setbacks at the hands of UAE-backed Yemeni forces with deadly aerial attacks inside the UAE.
Does this development illustrate a significant limitation to regional de-escalation? Is it particular to the UAE and the Houthis? Might other regional powers find themselves dragged back into local conflicts from which they had sought to disengage? Does this suggest that Iran and its militia network remain so destabilizing that regional de-escalation is not just fragile but doomed? What does this suggest about other efforts to pull back from confrontation such as dialogue between Gulf Arab states and Egypt with Turkey? Could institutional or infrastructural developments help insulate de-escalation from crises that could plunge the region back into an atmosphere of confrontation and even conflict?