Iran slams the United Arab Emirates for peace with Israel
By Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Following the announcement of an agreement to establish diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran’s political and military leadership issued strong warnings to the UAE of negative consequences if the actions permit Israel to expand its influence and activities in the region. “Treason” against the Palestinian people and against the Islamic claim to Jerusalem is the recurring theme in the statements issued by the Iranian regime representatives. The Iranian leadership emphasized the resilience of the resistance front in the region (comprising Palestinian terror organizations, pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq, Hizbullah, the Houthi movement in Yemen, and Shiite opposition organizations in the Gulf countries). In this context, Iran and Turkey compete in terms of who “will condemn louder and be more active” since Turkey has also denounced the Israel-UAE deal.
At the same time, Iran fears the deepening and institutionalization of Israel’s economic activity in the Emirates. According to Tehran, Israel can use the UAE as a springboard for its intelligence-security activities on the other side of the Arabian Gulf, especially during this sensitive time for Iran, during which it has been prone to fires and explosions at facilities tied to Iran’s nuclear program. It should be emphasized that delegations from Israel have already been leaving for the United Arab Emirates. Business agreements have already been signed between the two countries regarding fighting the coronavirus. All these advancements raise concerns in Tehran.
Moreover, Iran’s threatening tone is intended to deter similar moves by other Gulf countries especially Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia that can feel encouraged by the UAE’s decision and normalize their relations with Israel while moving closer to the United States and realizing President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” Peace Plan.
The heads of the Iranian army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps directly and blatantly threaten the Gulf States and, in particular, the United Arab Emirates. The Iranian military chief of staff warned, “The government of the UAE will face similar consequences to that of the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat due to its shameful actions.”
A statement issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps made it clear, and not for the first time, that after signing the agreement, “the residents of the Emirates’ Crystal Palace are likely to face many dangers in the future because of signing the agreement with Israel.” It should be emphasized that in recent years, the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen launched several cruise missiles toward the airport in Abu Dhabi and toward critical infrastructures in the Emirates. Moreover, the “know-how” regarding the manufacturing of the cruise missiles and ballistic missiles was provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The UAE plays a crucial role in stabilizing the southern region of Yemen, although it has recently reduced its activities in the country.
Rouhani: Emirates Chose the Wrong Path
Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, criticized the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and even threatened to take “several steps” if the agreement develops any further. Rouhani said,
Rouhani defined the agreement as “treason against the Palestinian cause, the Islamic nation, and Jerusalem (al-Quds).” He said that the deal coincided with Donald Trump’s election campaign. He further added that the agreement was directed by the Trump administration and not Israel and the United Arab Emirates themselves. Rouhani’s Chief of Staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, described the UAE move as a “treacherous and divisive mistake that history will not forgive.”
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: The Agreement Will Speed Up the Destruction of Israel
A statement issued by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps condemned, as expected, the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and defined it as a “strategic mistake that would speed up the destruction of the Zionist regime.” The statement also emphasized that the agreement is the ultimate treason against the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem. According to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the peace deal between Israel and Emirates effectively recognizes Israel, weakens the resistance, sidelines the Palestinian cause, and promotes the “Deal of the Century.”
The announcement also states that the agreement is a “poisoned knife in the back of the Islamic nation.”
The statement threatens that
The statement concludes that following their treason against the Islamic nation, Emirates’ rulers will be increasingly hated and that “in the face of this humiliation, they must sooner or later expect a response from the local population and other Islamic nations, who will not allow the Palestinian cause to be suppressed via psychological warfare and false images of the Zionist media.”
The Iranian army’s chief of staff condemned the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and implicitly threatened the life of the UAE ruler Muhammad bin Zayed. “The Palestinian issue is alive and dynamic, and it will not be long before Muhammad bin Zayed will face the negative consequences of his shameful actions, similar to the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.” He added that the Resistance camp would continue to serve as a defender of the Islamic world despite the poisoned arrows fired against it by the United States, the Zionist regime, and a number of reactionary figures. History will not forget the betrayal of the oppressed Palestinian people.
Major-General, Mohsen Rezaee, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and now secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, said that over the past ten years Abu Dhabi had become a safe haven for Israel, which has set up spy and intelligence networks of the Mossad against the countries in the region. He added that the agreement “will not deflect the loyal Arab and Muslim fighters, and they will not betray the Palestinian people … Greater Palestine will soon be liberated from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea thanks to the persistence and patience of its fighters and residents, whereas history will forget the unworthy ones, those who stab the nation in the back.”
Hossein Amir-Abdulaahian, the special aide to Ali Larijani, the president of the Islamic parliament in international affairs, noted that the agreement is “against peace and security and serves to further the Zionists’ crimes.” Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, Vice Secretary and Spokesman of the Guardian Council of the Constitution, said that the agreement is nothing less than the occupation of the Emirates in exchange for the abolition of the annexation of the West Bank. He described the United Arab Emirates as part of Israel’s territory.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iran’s adviser to the Supreme Leader in international affairs, also described the agreement as a “betrayal of Islamic states and criminal neglect of the Palestinian cause.” From Ali Akbar’s perspective, this agreement will lead to Emirates’ alienation and isolation from the Islamic states. Velayati urged Islamic states to reject the move taken by the United Arab Emirates and make every effort to help the Palestinian people.
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, visiting in Beirut after the disastrous port bombing, confirmed in a telephone conversation with his colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Riyad al-Maliki, that Iran will support the Palestinian people’s struggle and their national rights aspirations. During his visit to Lebanon, Zarif also spoke on the telephone with the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nahala, and sent him a similar message.
Both the conservative and reformist Iranian press aligned themselves with the official Iranian regime’s position as well as with the heads of the Iranian security establishment and defined the agreement as a “betrayal” and a “dubious deal.” The ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, which serves as the Iranian leader’s mouthpiece, printed a blaring headline on August 15, 2020: “The UAE is now a legitimate target for the Resistance forces.” Kayhan’s English edition chose the title “Deal with the Devil.”
The conservative newspaper Siyasat-e Rooz had a double-headline: “The Zionist Union of the Emirates” and “Ben Zayed kisses Trump’s blood-dripping shoe.” The Javan newspaper printed the following headline: “The betrayal and stupidity of the Emirates” alongside a picture of Palestinian protesters against Bin Zayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Tensions between Iran and the United Arab Emirates Will Grow
The UAE used to be a major channel for Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions. However, in the last year and even more since the outbreak of the Corona plague, this channel has been blocked. The United Arab Emirates has taken a number of actions against syndicates that were involved in smuggling goods to Iran. It seems that with the closer relations with Israel and the United States, the UAE’s activity to prevent smuggling from and to Iran will continue. In Iran, calls were heard to “hurt the enemy.” These calls were directed especially against the Emirates and the Emirates’s Crystal Palace (a hint at the UAE business centers), which is waging war against Iran.
Dissatisfied with the UAE, Iran is expected to take several steps and increase its military activity and civilian presence in the disputed islands with the UAE at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz (Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb). Iran will signal to the Emirates that there is a price for its actions, and Iran intends to prove it. At the same time, Iran might once again threaten the freedom of navigation in the Arab Gulf region, warn the United Arab Emirates, and even encourage demonstrations against the UAE’s rulers.
Tehran is confronted with several developments and has to deal with multiple crises simultaneously – both internal ones and in the international arena. The corona plague continues to take a heavy economic and civilian toll on the country. In Lebanon, together with Hizbullah, Iran faces the consequences and challenges of the blast in the Beirut port and among the local residents, which undermines its dream to establish the Second Islamic Republic. Finally, in the international arena, despite the U.S. Security Council victory and the failure of a proposed arms embargo, supported by the Gulf States, Iran will be further mired regarding its nuclear deal especially since the Trump administration is determined to resort to the snapback mechanism to automatically restore the U.N. sanctions on Iran that existed before the 2015 JCPOA agreement.
IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Acumen Risk Advisors.