Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the United States, has publicly called for a US military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. At the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, Ambassador al-Otaiba made clear that the UAE will never accept a nuclear Iran.
Here is what he had to say:
‘I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis. I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what. If you are asking me, “Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,” my answer is still the same: “We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.” I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.’
In the past, US officials have indicated that many Arab leaders and diplomats have privately expressed support for an American attack on Iran; however, Ambassador al-Otaiba’s comments would be the first time that such a position has been articulated publicly by an Arab government official.
There have been reports that Saudi King Abdullah has given Israel permission to use Saudi airspace for an attack on Iran. According to a French journalist, King Abdullah also told the French Defense Minister that there are two states in the Middle East that do not have the right to exist: Israel and Iran. Saudi Arabia fervently denied these reports when they were made public.
But Ambassador al-Otaiba’s remarks appear to reflect the view of many Arab governments in the region. Analysts say that there are a number of reasons why Arabs hold such views; the first being religious bigotry. Iran is a majority Shi’a country, and many Arabs hold Shi’as in contempt. The second reason is the anti-Persian racism that is pervasive in many Arab societies.
The third reason is the fear of foreign domination. Some find it strange that Arabs find it more or less acceptable for a Jewish state to have a nuclear arsenal but the very notion of a Persian Shi’a nation even having a nuclear program makes the Arabs quiver in fear. Also, the Arabs tremble at the thought of being dominated by Persian Shi’as, but the Arabs feel little or no shame being dominated by Caucasian Americans (or even an African American).
Ambassador al-Otaiba seems to believe that the United States will come to the UAE’s rescue if Iran decides to retaliate in response a US attack (supported by the UAE). But given the fact that America’s military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan are weighing down so heavily on the US military (not to mention the US economy), it is unlikely that the US will have the capacity to guarantee the security of the Emirates.
Ambassador al-Otaiba also seems to believe that while the short-term consequences of an attack on Iran will be severe, in the long-term this will be beneficial for the UAE. But the truth of the matter is that the UAE (along with the entire Gulf Cooperation Council) will be in the midst of a cold war with Iran once the hot war ends. The GCC will be forced to spend exorbitant amounts of money on national security, intelligence, and counter-intelligence.
The UAE need only look to the United States to see the effect that an overinflated defense budget can have on the health of an economy. Referring to a nuclear Iran, Ambassador al-Otaiba said, ‘The United States may be able to live with it. We can’t.’ But the truth is that the United States can afford a cold war with Iran. The UAE cannot.