[Update: See this post which confirms that Goldberg twisted the narrative here.]
After an exchange between the UAE ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba and Jeffrey Goldberg on Tuesday we learn that “the UAE would sooner see military action against Iran’s nuclear program than see the program succeed” — at least that’s what Goldberg says.
But the ambassador also said: “There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the US is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran.”
In other words, countries like the UAE will ultimately align themselves with whichever ends up being the most durable power in the region. Even so, autocratic rulers who rely on American support would naturally like the defender of their tenuous legitimacy to maintain its regional dominance.
The Washington Times quotes from the same exchange between Goldberg and al-Otaiba in Aspen:
“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr al-Otaiba said. “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 UAE.”
And this is how Goldberg interprets the UAE/Arab position:
It is not only Israel that fears the rise of a nuclear Iran; the Arabs, if anything, fear such a development to a greater degree. The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years. The Arabs and the Persians have been going at for a thousand. The idea of a group of Persian Shi’ites having possession of a nuclear bomb scares Arab leader like nothing else — it certainly scares them more than the reality of the Jewish bomb.
Goldberg speaks for Netanyahu and the lobby, but the UAE government does not accept his interpretation of their ambassador’s remarks:
The UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Tareq al Haidan said today that the statements attributed by the Washington Times to the UAE Ambassador to the United States, Youssef al Otaiba “are not precise”.
“These statements came as part of general discussions held on the sidelines of an unofficial gathering and were taken out of their context in which Mr. Otaiba was speaking,” Mr al Haidanl said.
“Iran is a neighboring country and we maintain historic relations with it.” He stressed that “the UAE respects and believes in the sovereignty of other states and in the principle of non-interference, of all forms, in their internal affairs.”
“Already, the UAE declared, more than one time and in official statements issued by the Foreign Ministry, its position on the Iranian nuclear issue,” Mr al Haidan added.
“The UAE totally rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and rather calls for a solution through political means that are based on the international legitimacy, transparency as well as the need for working, through the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], on the right of all states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“The UAE, at the same time, believes in the need of keeping the Gulf region free of nuclear weapons,” Mr al Haidan said.
As for whether the Arab world is as vexed about Iran as Goldberg claims, perhaps a clearer indication came from one of Israel’s few allies, Jordan, when King Abdullah spoke to the Wall Street Journal in April:
WSJ: What do you think when you look at Iran and international policy. There’s a lot of talk now about how active Iran is in Iraq as far as trying to push their political clients. Do you see it active in Hezbollah/Lebanon? In the Palestinian territories? Is the engagement track working?
HM KING ABDULLAH: Again, I look at it from a different angle. If there are those that are saying that Iran is playing mischief, then I say it is being allowed to play mischief. The platform they use is the injustice of the Palestinians and Jerusalem. So if you start taking those cards off the table, then Iranian influence on the Mediterranean through Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza diminishes or becomes non existent. My view is that I am really against any military action in Iran, that is Pandora’s box. But by dealing with the core issue, that’s when you start taking cards away from the Iranian regime.
The core issue is Palestine — not an Iranian bomb — and a strike on Iran, that’s Pandora’s box.
Just because Obama put on a shameless performance yesterday to please the Israelis and the lobby, and just because there is no evidence that he is a man of principle, doesn’t mean he’s stupid. He knows what Pandora’s box looks like and he’s just as reluctant as anyone else to find out what it contains.
The key take away message is that Israel’s partisans would like to attribute the desire to attack Iran to ANYBODY other than Israel itself. Why that it I leave to others to decide. However, I do not recall much concern placed on what Arabs want before.
Out of curiosity I checked out Yousef al-Otaiba …apparently he is enamored with the DC social scene, throws lavish parties, smooches up social elites and politicos in DC….likes playing the rich and famous life style it seems.
Could be of course the UAE just didn’t want him to say what he said “in public”..but then again it is not usual for an Ambassador to use “I would” or the personal individual when commenting on politic affairs and positions…usually they stick to the offical diplomatic script and don’t make bold statements on their personal position orm opinion. Maybe the UAE denial statement is their true position, maybe not. But it may be that Yousef al-Otaiba is under the spell of DC and trying to ingratiate himself personally with the ‘very important DC perps who could be useful to him personally. Happens all the time…some get carried away being exposed to the heady Halls of Orwell. I remember the King pulling Prince Bandar’s plug when he started talking out of turn.
I’ve written this repeatedly, it’s always Israelis/Zionists who keep reminding us that the Arabs are worried about Iran. Though, when questioned directly, they all say the same thing, “we’re not worried about Iran; but we’d support a nuke free Middle East.
Your next assignment will be to prove the Saudi Nuke program which has slipped out, but not officially. The Saudis have the absolute leverage and the relationship to get nukes and to keep everyone mum. Remember the US has no greater ally in the Middle East than the Saudi Royal Family. Sadly for Arabians, the Saudi Royals are more loyal to Americans than their own people. Then again, the cobbler will deny his own children shoes for the paying customer.
Nobody is worried about Iran. The whole world is worried about nuclear armed Israel.
The constant will of Israel to destroy arab countries : Libanon, Irak and now Iran is the most horrible threat to the world’s citizen. Israel should be isolated and forced to respect international law and stopped murdering people in foreign countries and piracy in international waters and oppression by medieval siege and daily killing of innocent palestinian citizen, destruction of palestinian houses and uprooting old olive trees. Israel makes the world spoiled, without any consideration of humanity. This is the horrible reality of the state of Israel.