The United Arab Emirates is flexing its military muscle in a chaotic, post-Arab Spring Middle East.
What was once a nation with a limited presence on the international stage is acquiring advanced weaponry, instituting universal military service, and expanding its fleet of fighter jets and heavy vehicles.
A country of less than 10 million citizens has even proven willing frequently to use military force around the region.
The biggest sign of this came in August, when the UAE cooperated with Egypt to bomb Islamist militias vying for the Libyan capital; the Emirates had contributed a dozen aircraft to the international campaign that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi back in 2011. Also in 2011, it contributed troops to the multi-national force that crushed a peaceful uprising in Bahrain in 2011 and the country is involved in anti-ISIS operations as well.
The UAE had the 15th-highest military expenditures of any country in the world in 2013 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its military spending has nearly doubled in the last ten years; behind Saudi Arabia it enjoys the second biggest defense budget of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states at more than $14 billion.
It’s also on pace to become the world’s third-largest defense importer in 2015.
A network of monarchical city states that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi is now the rising military power in the Middle East.