Hedging their bets? Israel worried as UAE-Iran ties grow

With the possibility of a nuclear Iran closer than ever, Israel worries that the United Arab Emirates may seek to strengthen its ties with Tehran.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As officials from the United Arab Emirates are reported to be gearing up for an official visit to Tehran, Israel is growing worried that stalled nuclear talks may be causing the Gulf kingdom to take a pragmatic approach to the nuclear threat – by strengthening ties with the Islamic Republic.

“I hope that it [the delegation’s visit] will take place as soon as possible, and all our friends are aware of that. Our goal is to turn over a new page [in the UAE – Iran relationship],” said Anwar Gargash, a senior advisor to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, in a recent press conference.

With Iran playing hardball in the Vienna talks, refusing to grant any concessions until the U.S. removes all sanctions currently in place against the country, the possibility of a nuclear Iran appears closer than ever.

“Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Reuters Next Conference last Friday.

Last week, Israeli officials warned the U.S. that Iran is gearing up to enrich uranium to weapons-grade 90 percent levels, signaling one of the last steps necessary for the completion of a nuclear weapon.

The failure of the talks to progress has led Israel to worry that “the Emirates are on their way to playing the Qatari game,” a senior Israeli official told Israel Hayom.

Qatar, another Gulf kingdom, has played neutral Switzerland for years in the complicated, constantly shifting game of diplomatic relations in the region.

While Qatar has a friendly relationship with the United States and other Western countries, the country is also close with Iran and extremist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Abraham Accords were born because the US projected that it was strong and could be depended upon. When that’s not the situation, all sides draw conclusions,” the Israeli official continued.

With the U.S.’s hardline policies towards Iran under former president Donald Trump replaced by the Biden administration’s milder approach, Israel believes that the UAE may decide to hedge its bets and deepen its ties with the Islamic Republic.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week in a statement that the UAE is “starting to move in Iran’s direction because they feel that there is weakness here. They feel that there was a change in Washington and a change in Jerusalem. The breakthrough between the Gulf states and Israel is in danger.”