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  • Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan meets with the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Abu Dhabi.

    Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan meets with the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Abu Dhabi. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 June 2019

“The United Arab Emirates is spending billions of dollars on armaments and wants to be a second Israel in the region,''

As UAE blames Iran for an attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Iran hit back Tuesday accusing the UAE of becoming a "second Israel" for its fondness of large U.S. arms imports, and its role in ratcheting up U.S. aggression against Iran.  

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“The United Arab Emirates is spending billions of dollars on armaments and wants to be a second Israel in the region,'' Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a recent interview with Al-Araby TV. “Three countries in the region believe they can maintain their security through their relations with the United States.”

A 2016 study has shown a 63 percent increase in weapons purchases by the Gulf monarchy between 2012 and 2016, while spending on arms is expected to increase by US$8 billion by 2021 from the 2016 figure. 

The comments come during a backdrop of rising tensions between the two countries as UAE points the finger at Iran, so far without evidence, for the recent attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

UAE has also been a key driver behind efforts to isolate Iran, making clear they would like to work with Israel to that end.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, the defacto leader of the country, has made it clear that he supports a role for Israel in a so-called Arab NATO alliance to encircle Iran. Furthermore, New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick, recently pointed out that the Emiratis lobbied hard in Washington for an end to the Iran nuclear deal and said they were ‘delighted’ when President Donald Trump scrapped the deal and took a more aggressive line against the Islamic Republic.

UAE has long been an extremely close ally to the U.S., deploying troops alongside them in a number of countries, with an especially large involvement in Afghanistan and Yemen. 

Kirkpatrick also pointed out the role the UAE has been playing in pushing Trump towards more hawkish positions. These include Trump’s recent push to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and an increasingly aggressive tone towards Qatar, a US ally who has fallen out with the Saudis and the Emirates over foreign policy differences in the region as well as Qatar's news channel Aljazeera, which has been critical of the policies of Bin Zayed and Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman in the years after the so-called Arab Spring. 

The UAE, alongside Saudi Arabia, has also been accused of using tactics similar to those used by Israel as part of their massive military campaign in Yemen. Saudi and UAE militaries have been accused of targetting civilian structures in Yemen such as schools, hospitals, funerals and weddings, prompting human rights groups to accuse the countries of war crimes. Abu Dhabi and Riyadh say that such strikes were carried out because such civilian infrastructures or events were harboring "terrorists" and Houthi militants, a narrative used by Israel during its attacks on Gaza. 

Also in June 2018, an investigation by the Associated Press news agency revealed that hundreds of Yemenis had been taken to secret prisons and subjected to different, humiliating and painful kinds of torture, in order to obtain information about al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group.

According to the investigation, four of the prisons where the AP found sexual torture are in Aden. One of them is at the Buriqa base, UAE's headquarters in Yemen; another one is the house of Shallal Shaye, Aden's security chief and close ally of the Emiratis; another is the former nightclub Wadah, and the last one is Beir Ahmed.

In the same interview, Foreign Minister Zarif also denounced U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, which are supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, saying; “There is no difference between military and economic war," the minister said. "In the circumstances of tension, everything is possible and the region is the biggest victim." The US has been especially angered by Iran's opposition to US foreign policy in the Middle East, especially in Palestine, Syria and Yemen. 

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