By Vahid Jafarian, Editorial Board Member
The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, has claimed that Iran’s “hostile behavior” in the Middle East “is growing worse” despite the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers in 2015.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, entitled “The Gulf States Are Ready for Peaceful Coexistence—if Iran Is”, Otaiba called for collective efforts by the Trump administration and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) states to push back against Iran’s allegedly destabilizing role in the region.
“When the Iranian nuclear deal took effect more than a year ago, there were high hopes that it would set Tehran on a new course of responsible engagement in world affairs. Instead, the country has chosen increased conflict and aggression,” the Emirati diplomat wrote.
He also agreed with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’ assessment that Iran represented “the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East,” and is “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
Otaiba also blamed Tehran for prolonging the Yemeni conflict by sending weapons to Houthi rebels.
“Revitalizing security cooperation between the U.S. and the Arab Gulf states would have an immediate effect in Yemen. Increased American support for the Arab coalition would help combat the Houthis, who overthrew the legitimate government. It would help counter the thousands of Iranian-supplied missiles and rockets launched by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia. It would also help protect shipping in the Red Sea, a vital international waterway leading to the Suez Canal,” he advised.
Otaiba’s op-ed is the latest indication that the Emirati government has recently intensified its rhetoric against Iran.
According to analysts, it was “surprising” that the Otaiba agreed with Mattis’ characterization of Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
The harsh statements by UAE official come amid recent Tehran efforts to correct relationships with its Persian Gulf neighbors.
In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani undertook a tour of Oman and Kuwait, where he had a brief meeting with Sultan Qaboos of Oman and Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
The trip marked the shared will of two Arab states of the Persian Gulf – Oman and Kuwait – to develop ties with Iran as an influential country in the region.
It was especially important because of the recent efforts by some regional and cross-regional players to wedge the differences between Iran and its neighbors.
However, Rouhani’s travel to Kuwait and Oman was warmly welcomed by the officials, people, and the media of the regional countries and it proved that the provocative policies of some powers have yielded no results.
In other words, the several hours visit of Iranian president to Oman and Kuwait and the welcoming ceremonies of the highest ranks offered, marked the importance the neighbors hold for visit of Dr. Rouhani.
This came amid reports that Trump administration was encouraging Arab states to join Israel in an anti-Iran alliance.
“The basis of the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is always good neighborly relations with neighbors and the security of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Rouhani also said there should be greater unity between Shi’ites and Sunnis, saying they had “coexisted side by side peacefully for hundreds of years”.
Middle East Institute contributed to this article