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United Arab Emirates starts compulsory military service

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The UAE says it needs to be better able to defend itself from more powerful  neighbors in the Middle East. (Source: CBS) The UAE says it needs to be better able to defend itself from more powerful neighbors in the Middle East. (Source: CBS)

ABU DHABI, UAE (CBS) - The compulsory military service law of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the Gulf and combating terrorism, said UAE experts on Tuesday.

The law applies to all males between the ages of 18 and 30 and in good medical health. Men who have a high school degree or its equivalent will serve nine months, while those who do not have a high school diploma will serve for two years.

"There are mainly two reasons for the UAE to introduce compulsory military service. First, it need to protect its strategic resources and be more prepared for any possible threat in the future. And second, it intends to teach its people, men and women, of solidarity through military service," said Mousa Qallab, a senior researcher for the Orient Research Center in the UAE.

Another expert said that despite strong military ties with countries in the West - most notably the United States and the European powers of France and the United Kingdom - the UAE is positioned at the center of one of the world's least politically stable regions, with several neighbors who seem always on the brink of war.

In addition, the UAE 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 Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Fahed Al Shqyran, a researcher from the Madarek Publishing House in the UAE.

"There are mainly two threats in this region at the moment. One is the Iran nuclear issue and the sovereignty dispute over the three islands in the Persian Gulf. The other is the threat of terrorism in Syria, such as extremists groups including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the al-Nusra Front," said Fahed Al Shqyran.

Apart from the UAE, the government of Qatar in 2013 also approved a draft bill making it compulsory for males to enlist for military service for a period of up to four months.

Another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, Kuwait, is said to be considering drafting legislation calling for mandatory military service.

"It is important that the Gulf states strengthen their military forces. Regional security must be ensured because here we have over half of the oil reserves in the world, and we export about 35 percent of them to industrialized regions across the world," said Mousa Qallab.

Introducing military service will not only help the Gulf states build up their troops, but it will also decrease reliance on foreign support during peacetime, he added.

"The days have passed when the Gulf states had to rely on the U.S. and we accept that. But we must strengthen our military forces and build stronger armies so that we can protect ourselves with our own armies and weapons," said Fahed Al Shqyran.

Copyright 2014 CBS. All rights reserved.

 

 

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