With eye on troubled region, UAE plans military service for men
DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will introduce compulsory military service for young Emirati men, it said on Sunday, a move highlighting the Gulf state's concern over turmoil in its neighborhood.
The UAE, a federation of seven emirates with mostly an expatriate population, faces no immediate threats from neighbors and has been spared militant attacks that have afflicted other countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Like other Gulf Arab states, the U.S. ally has strong military ties with Western powers which say they are committed to helping the OPEC member country deter or repel any threat.
But the UAE, a big buyer of Western military hardware, has a territorial dispute with its much bigger neighbor, Iran, over three Gulf islands controlled by the Islamic republic.
It is also wary of a neighborhood fraught with conflicts, including in Syria, Iraq and Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The state WAM news agency said the cabinet had endorsed a draft law which requires all men over the age of 18 or those who have finished high school and are under 30, to complete military training. It is optional for women.
It was not immediately clear when the system would start being implemented.
The UAE has a population of around 8.2 million, about 90 percent of whom are foreigners.
"Protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty and the new law will be implemented on all," UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on his Twitter account.
"Our gains are a red line that must be protected."
Men who have finished high school will serve nine months, while those who do not have a high school diploma will serve for two years, according to Sheikh Mohammed's tweets.
The move follows a similar decision by Qatar's cabinet in November which approved a law to make brief military service compulsory on male Qataris between the age of 18 and 35.