It is by now almost a formality: In the Middle East, nothing either good or bad can transpire without Washington pointing to Tehran’s alleged hegemonic designs as the force behind it. So it was with the so-called peace deal announced last week between Israel and the United Arab Emirates: Two countries who were never at war declared peace, and the Trump administration—along with much of Washington—quickly deemed it historic. Though the two states have intimately (but quietly) collaborated on security matters for years, the announcement of their security alliance was, according to the conventional wisdom, a groundbreaking move that was only made possible due to their shared sense of threat from Iran.
Much of Washington agrees with this. “The Iranian regime’s regional aggression has brought the Arab nations and Israel closer together,” Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, quipped last year, echoing one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorite talking points: The 2015 nuclear deal had empowered Iran, Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, and “brought Israel and many Arab states closer together than ever before, in an intimacy and friendship that I have not seen in my lifetime and would have been unimaginable a few years ago.”
These “enemy of my enemy” truisms may make for a compelling narrative, but they do not hold up to scrutiny. Certainly, tensions between Iran and some Arab states—primarily Saudi Arabia—have risen since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But if Iran is such a monumental threat that it would force the U.A.E. to do the “unimaginable,” then one would expect Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy to be laser-focused on Tehran while avoiding getting distracted by lesser rivalries. That’s not the case. Abu Dhabi has gotten itself entangled in several unwise and unnecessary military interventions, far from the 65 miles of water that separate it from Iran. Almost all of those adversarial entanglements are with Turkey and Qatar—not Iran.
In Libya, U.A.E.-aligned forces are in direct combat with Turkish-backed troops as Abu Dhabi fights for control in what remains of that country. Iran has no meaningful involvement in Libya. In Syria, the Emirati rulers have moved closer to the Assad regime (which is supported by Iran) as Syrian troops fight Turkish-backed fighters in the north. Ideologically, the U.A.E. views the Muslim Brotherhood as its main rival, and the Brotherhood’s principal backers are—again—Turkey and Qatar, not Iran.
Read the full article in The New Republic.