Israel and Iran must lower the fire. The UAE might be the best choice as a conduit.
When the Abraham Accords were unveiled in 2020, Iran denounced the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) decision to normalize relations with Israel as a dangerous step threatening its security as well as that of the Palestinians. Just a day after OK was signed, on September 15, 2021, Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the pact as “strategic idiocy” and “a UAE stab in the back of the Palestinian people”. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also released a fiery statement, calling the normalization “historical idiocy” that would lead to a “dangerous future” for the UAE’s rulers.
These statements were not surprising given the widespread impression that the Abraham Accords – which later expanded to include Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – were largely driven by Arab fear and animosity towards the Arab world. ‘Iran. Israel’s comments, suggesting that it aimed to use the agreements as a platform to build a “Regional NATO” to deter Tehran, nurtured this impression and pointed to the fact that Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates view Iran as a common enemy and have been quietly collaborating for years to prevent Tehran from establishing its hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in general.
However, recent events in the region underscore the need to use the Abraham Accords not just as a stick to threaten Iran, but as a means to defuse tensions in the region.
Above all, it is important to remember that the UAE and Israel have fundamentally different relations with Iran that stem, in part, from their respective regional positions (in addition to the obvious major differences in religion and political systems ).
The UAE has had territorial and other disputes with Iran for decades, including Iran’s occupation of three small islands in the Persian Gulf since the time of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as well as lingering disputes in Yemen. . But the United Arab Emirates and, in particular, Dubai, have also enjoyed lucrative economic relations with Tehran. Given the status of the UAE as a global hub for trade, tourism and investment, the UAE relies on stability and is no longer entirely confident that the United States would come to its aid in the event of a confrontation. military with Iran.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have engaged in talks with Tehran following attacks on oil tankers off the UAE coast and missile and drone strikes on Saudi’s Abqaiq oil facility Aramco in 2019, which occurred after the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. . On April 28, 2021, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman went so far as to say the Kingdom is while searching “a good and positive relationship with Iran.”
The situation of the United Arab Emirates is further complicated by its geography: it is adjacent to Iran and is home to a large Iranian community. Far from seeking a confrontation, many Emiratis fear that a military conflict could destroy its impressive but fragile infrastructure.
Israel, by contrast, sees Iran as an imminent existential threat. Apart from conversations between former officials, Israel and Iran have had no overt contact for years and actively oppose each other directly and by proxy.
Unless Iran moves closer to a nuclear escape capability, Israel and the UAE are unlikely to act openly against Iran – the UAE has too much to lose. But the Emirates could help defuse tensions with Iran at a time when Israeli military activity in Syria continues against Iran.
Recent events regarding tensions between Iran and Israel only heighten the need to create a channel of communication between the parties to prevent escalation. March 7 murder two members of the IRGC, which was attributed to Israel, and reports of a attack on a drone factory run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps near Kermanshah in February, in collaboration with the Iranian response– which included the firing of missiles at what Tehran claims is a Mossad base in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to a cyber attack on the Israeli government sites March 14 — can bring the parties closer to an armed confrontation than at any other time in their history.
The UAE could help avoid escalation by establishing a “hotline” to reduce the risk of miscalculations that lead to war. This could be particularly useful at a time when Russia, which could have played such a role in the past, is concerned about the war in Ukraine and its consequences.
In recent months, there has been a drastic change with regard to diplomatic relations and connections between certain countries in the Middle East. From a situation in which most countries were not talking to Israel or often even to each other, there are new connections and a reassessment of the role of the United States.
Israel, deprived of any open channel of communication with the leaders of Tehran, found itself with the “language” of drones and missiles, with the danger that the “war between wars” could escalate in reality. A new indirect channel is needed to help prevent this.
The relationship that Israel managed to establish with Hamas in the Gaza Strip – through Egypt as a mediator – is an example of such a relationship. Although Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist and Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization, the Egyptian channel has sometimes helped prevent and contain conflicts.
The United States, which also lacks relations with Iran, has previously used Qatar, Oman and the Vienna Process to facilitate quiet dialogue with Tehran. Despite the common perception that the Abraham Accords are anti-Iranian, there are constructive ways to use new relationships in the region to maintain the current and difficult peace. The Gulf Arab countries should create a communication channel between Israel and Iran. It won’t be easy, but it could prevent hostility from triggering a regional war.
Danny Citrinowicz served for twenty-five years in a variety of Israeli Defense Intelligence (IDI) unit command positions, including as head of the Iranian branch of the Intelligence Research and Analysis Division (RAD) defense force and as the division’s representative in the United States. States. Follow him on Twitter: @citrinowicz.
Wed 1 Sep 2021
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