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The Race for Iran


The Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, is in the news for comments he made yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival–comments in which he apparently expressed some measure of support for a U.S. military attack on Iranian nuclear targets.  We have known Yousef since before his appointment as the UAE’s ambassador to the United States.  Based on our previous conversations with him, we do not believe that he wants to see a military confrontation between the United States and Iran. 

Unfortunately, neoconservative-flavored reporting of his remarks in Aspen will likely have a damaging impact on the Iran debate in Washington.  In particular, Yousef’s words will be taken as confirmation for some of AIPAC’s more ill-informed and strategically misguided talking points:  that Iran poses an objective and unacceptable threat to all U.S. allies, not just Israel; that the Arabs are concerned about the “real threat” of Iran much more than the “false problem” of Palestine; and that containment of Iran is unacceptable as a long-term strategy not just to Israel but to America’s Arab allies as well.

According to Eli Lake in the Washington Times, Yousef responded to a question from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic about the possibility of an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities with the following remarks: 

“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 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.” 

Goldberg himself reports the following observations from Yousef: 

“There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran.  Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully’s eye, if nobody’s going to come to their support.” 

“Countries in the region view the Iran threat very differently.  I can only speak for the UAE, but talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous.  Why should I be led to believe that deterrence or containment will work?  Iran doesn’t have nuclear power now, but we’re unable to contain them and their behavior in the region.  What makes me think that once they have a nuclear program, we’re going to be able to be more successful in containing them?” 

And here is how Goldberg renders Yousef’s response to the question, “Do you want the U.S. to stop the Iranian nuclear program by force?”: 

“Absolutely, absolutely.  I think we are at risk of an Iranian nuclear program far more than you are at risk.  At 7,000 miles away, and with two oceans bordering you, an Iranian nuclear threat does not threaten the continental United States.  It may threaten your assets in the region, it will threaten the peace process, it will threaten balance of power, it will threaten everything else, but it will not threaten you…I am suggesting that I think out of every country in the region, the UAE is most vulnerable to Iran.  Our military, who has existed for the past 40 years, wake up, dream, breathe, eat, sleep the Iranian threat.  It’s the only conventional military threat our military plans for, trains for, equips for, that’s it, there’s no other threat, there’s no country in the region that is a threat to the UAE, it’s only Iran.  So yes, it’s very much in our interest that Iran does not gain nuclear technology.”

Earlier today, a senior official at the UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi declared that the statements attributed to Yousef were “inaccurate”:   

“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 Al-Otaiba was speaking”.    

The UAE Foreign Ministry official went on to clarify the Emirati position vis-à-vis Iran, noting that the UAE “believes in the sovereignty of other states and in the principle of non-interference, of all forms, in their internal affairs”: 

“The UAE has already declared, more than once and in official statements issued by the Foreign Ministry, its position on the Iranian nuclear issue.  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, on the right of all states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  The UAE, at the same time, believe in the need of keeping the Gulf region free of nuclear weapons”. 

Goldberg has already offered the following reflections on Yousef’s remarks:     

“[T]he ambassador’s position, though stated more plainly, and publicly, than usual, is the standard position of many Arab states.  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 leaders like nothing else—it certainly scares them more than the reality of the Jewish bomb.”

We can expect more commentary of this sort in the days and weeks ahead.  It is important to push back against this kind of (deliberate?) misreading of regional attitudes about a U.S.-Iranian confrontation.  In fact, attitudes in the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, encompassing Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE) regarding Iran are much more conflicted and less clear-cut than they are usually portrayed in neoconservative commentary. 

As Tom Lippman wrote on www.TheRaceForIran.com last month, in a piece looking at Saudi King Abdullah’s meeting with President Obama at the White House:    

“On Iran, the Saudis are like the Americans in that they know what they want but do not know how to achieve it.  They want the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraq, stop supporting extremist groups and, most important, stop enriching uranium.  They do not believe the latest round of economic sanctions will deter Iran, but they oppose military action by the United States—or, worse yet, Israel—to halt the nuclear program.  Any such attack, they fear, would cause chaos in the Gulf and prompt Iran to strike at them as a way of inflicting pain on the United States. 

Saudi Arabia did not oppose the latest U.N. sanctions—Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal even went to Beijing to urge China to support them.  But after a meeting in February with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prince Saud said that ‘sanctions are a long term solution, but we see the issue in the shorter term, maybe because we are closer to the threats than that.  So we need immediate resolution rather than gradual resolution in this regard.’

He did not specify what ‘immediate resolution’ he had in mind.  Nor could he have done so because, according to Saudi officials I talked to in Riyadh last month, no one has devised any ‘immediate resolution’ short of the war the Saudis don’t want.”

We also asked Dr. Jasim Husain Ali to provide a piece updating our readers on attitudes about Iran in the GCC states, with a focus on the UAE.  Jasim is a well-known Bahraini analyst of GCC affairs; we gratefully post his observations below (we note that Jasim wrote his piece before Yusuf’s remarks in Aspen were reported).  We are particularly struck by his comparison of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar—all of which seem focused on maintaining positive relations with Iran—on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, on the other hand.        

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett


From Dr. Jasim Husain Ali: 

Despite their deep differences on issues pertaining to GCC integration, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have one thing in common—making unfriendly gestures toward Iran.  In a span of two weeks, a UK press report alleged covert Saudi assistance to Israel for a prospective Israeli military strike against Iran.  At the same time, the UAE assumed regional leadership in going after Iranian business interests, under the pretext of honoring United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, adopted in New York last month.

Anti-Iran behavior and actions by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are abounding.  For example, chances are that Saudi Arabia could be tricked into facilitating a military assault on Iran, a development that would have far reaching consequences.  The Times of London alleged on 12 June that Saudi Arabia had considered allowing Israeli aircraft use of its airspace to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.  Saudi Arabia has categorically denied the report.  But the Saudis are not actively seeking a peaceful resolution to the controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Strangely enough, the UAE has assumed regional leadership in undermining Iranian business.  On 21 June, the English-language daily Gulf News reported that UAE officials have closed more than 40 local and international firms for allegedly exporting materials to Iran which could have been used in the country’s nuclear program.  However, it is believed that UAE authorities made the decision to target these firms prior to the passage of Resolution 1929 on June 9.  In addition, on June 28, another English-daily newspaper published in the UAE, Emirates Business 24-7, reported that the UAE Central Bank had ordered banks operating in the country to freeze 41 accounts in connection with the resolution.  Clearly, the selection of English-language newspapers rather than Arabic-language media as the venues for publicizing these decisions is driven by an interest in satisfying the United States and its allies.    

Clearly, Abu Dhabi has chosen the path of confronting Tehran after succeeding in marginalizing Dubai, the traditional trade hub in the region for Iranian-related business.  This development reflects Abu Dhabi having emerged as Dubai’s financial savior following Dubai’s debt debacle in late 2009.  With its abundance of hydrocarbon resources and hundreds of billions of dollars in state reserves and investment assets, Abu Dhabi cares much less than Dubai about the potential damage to business interests on both sides of the Persian Gulf.  Undoubtedly, the UAE’s anti-Iran policy also reflects the ongoing dispute over the ownership of the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb. 

The actions of Saudi Arabia and the UAE toward Iran threaten further divisions within the GCC, thereby further undermining prospects for attaining genuine regional integration.  For their parts, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait seem determined to maintain normal neighborly ties with Iran.  Also, Bahrain is said to be close in signing a deal allowing for the import of Iranian gas to help meet industrial demand.

The Islamic Republic has built up some 30 years of experience in dealing with different types of sanctions and hostile actions.  It is highly unlikely that new pressures would yield any outcome other than failure.



  1. fyi says:


    Dubai will not be a target.

    States with US bases will be.

    The Southern Persian Gulf states are arms-rich and military-poor.

    They do not truts their own people to staff a military force; per chance a group of “Free Officers” will displace the ruling families.

    They do not truts each other – thus there is no inter-operability or joint-ed-ness among their military forces.

    They trust the Americans, the French, and the English.

    Their air forces, however potent on paper, has no useful mission. The planes cannot be used in support of defensive tactics against Iranian air force planes (since Iranians have no capability there) and they could not be used in support of the combined arms operations against Iran since the Southern Persian Gulf states have no such capability and will never ever have it.

    These arms purchases are good way to keep US arms industry alive so US could subsidize Israel as well.


    The universities in the Southern Persian Gulf are really like large US Community Colleges. They are there to make Higher Education available as a political hand-out to the larger population there. In other words, for all intent and purposes, they are fakes.

  2. James Canning says:


    Aren’t there hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in Dubai and elsewhere in the UAE? Many would be there for business reasons even if the sanctions were lifted. I think there are about two dozen flights between the UAE and Iran each day. The odious Stuart Levey should be dumped on his backside in a large rubbish bin.

  3. James Canning says:


    Roger Cohen’s piece is worth reading. The hall of mirrors analogy is a good one.

    Iranian and Turkish companies are the main foreign investors in Syria, and I would expect Turkish investment in Syria to continue to grow substanially even if relations with Israel improve.

  4. Fiorangela says:

    There is a great deal of American money and American institutional investment in Dubai and the emirates.

    Serious bets have been placed that the region will provide and sustain growth and prosperity.

    Iranians participate in the trade that passes through Dubai because they have been forced to do so by US sanctions and by the ruinous and counterproductive tactics of Stuart Levey and the Treasury Department’s office of terrorism finance. For example, due to the actions of US anti-Iran forces, Americans traveling in Iran cannot use credit cards. Not directly, that is: to transact business with a credit card, the merchant you are dealing with will contact his brother-in-law who has an account with a bank in Doha or in Dubai. Your purchase will be processed through that financial center, thus, your money will be converted from dollars to rials to durham; the process will add 15% to 18% to your transaction cost. Even in the aggregate, however, that is small potatoes, given that so few Americans travel to Iran — nothing to cause US Treasury Dept. director of antiterrorism finance Stuart Levey loss of sleep.

    But major US universities have established campuses in Dubai, and some of America’s wealthiest families participate in funds that are heavily invested in Dubai.

    In his video lecture series of the history of US – Middle East relation, Salim Yaqub explains the American government was first called upon to intervene on behalf of Americans in ME when Christian missionaries evangelizing in Arab states got into difficulties. Christian missionaries are not nearly so prevalent in ME today as they once were; however, even more influence-wielding money interests do have a stake in emirate and Arab states, and they will not be shy about demanding that US government protect their interests.

    The most compelling aspect of this article about what the UAE minister said is the photo of Robert Gates, in alert posture tho his hands are still, beaming into the eyes of his prey. Gates is an arms merchant. He sells weapons. That’s the bottom line.

  5. James Canning says:


    The UAE is not preparing for combat with Iran.

  6. James Canning says:

    Richard Steven Hack,

    I agree there are hundreds of stooges in the US Congress, of both the Israel lobby and the armaments manufacturers.

    I also am concerned there is an effort underway to concoct a false NIE regarding Iran, as part of a scheme to set up another idiotic war.

    In my view, many of the dupes of the warmongers, in 2003, in the US Congress, felt confident they could act with gross incompetence and be sure of receiving “protection” from the US media should the scheme turn out to be harebrained. And, of course, there has been no effective investigation of the conspiracy to set up an illegal war.

  7. Off-topic, but interesting piece on Turkey/Israel relations by Roger Cohen in the NY Times:


  8. irshad says:

    The ambasassador has really let the cat out the bag now…..so the UAE prepares for combat against Iran…what do they seriously expect to achieve – Dubai in ruins?

  9. Mr. Canning: The important point of the Senate leadership being in favor of attacking Iran is that they reflect the opinion of most of the Senate and probably most of the House as well.

    It is well know that AIPAC can count on the support of up to SEVENTY of the 100 Senators. That’s enough to rubber stamp a war request by any President as the Iraq war proved. As I said, the only question for these clowns is whether their political fortunes might be damaged when the war goes bad, as the Iraq war did. That’s weak compared to the undoubted bribes they’re getting from the military-industrial complex and the threats they’re getting from the Israel Lobby to start the war.

    As for the intelligence the CIA has, the CIA can be bent to tell whatever story the Administration wants. This was proved in the run up to the Iraq war, and the word is now that the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is being re-worked to support an Iran war. Former members of the CIA such as Ray McGovern do not approve of this, but they cannot guarantee it won’t happen again.

    Ray McGovern said recently on Antiwar Radio that he thought, based on information he has received from “those in the know” in the intelligence agencies, Iran actually did have a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. However, I would like to ask him if ever I can whether that intelligence can distinguish between a nuclear weapons development and DEPLOYMENT program, or a program that merely wishes to learn how to build nuclear weapons. There is a big difference between those two intentions.

    But from a National Intelligence Estimate view, can the US distinguish between those two very different programs? I don’t think so.

    Therefore it will not be that big a problem for the US to gin up an NIE to justify an Iran war. If the political goals are to start a war, then the intelligence agencies will be pressured to go along.

    Most importantly, it should be absolutely clear right now that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons deployment program. Yet Obama continues with sanctions and ratcheting up the tensions. If there is real evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, how come nobody has seen it but him? We don’t even have Bush’s fake photos of helium balloon trucks or aluminum tubes or anything else to support the notion of an Iranian program! Nothing but assertions without any substance whatsoever except a laptop of questionable provenance.

    So where is Obama getting HIS intel? From tea leaves? From the Israeli Mossad?

    If Obama can push major sanctions on another country from this weak tea, who can declare that a war is not feasible simply because “we have no intelligence”? We don’t have any NOW!

  10. James Canning says:


    I agree with you that Obama has failed to obtain an adequately competent staff, to be able to deal intelligently with the issues presented in the Middle East.

    This reminds my of what obtained in the Bush administration in the run-up to the insane invasion of Iraq: Arabic speakers were excluded, where possible, from the decision making! A demonstrated competence in Arab language (dialects) and culture, history, etc., were held against the person who possessed such credentials.

  11. James Canning says:


    I think the media played a crucial role in setting up the idiotic invasion of Iraq. Many reasonably well-informed people I talked to, in the US, in the months leading up to the invasion, thought that Saddam had WMD and was planning to use it against the US- – IN THE US ITSELF! Total cr*p, of course, but they had been fooled by the relentless propaganda in the newspapers and on network TV.

    And Tony Blair deceived his own cabinet, in his effort to help Bush proceed with an illegal war.

  12. fyi says:


    It might interest you to know that there is, at the present time, no one with area expertise in the Middle East is member of the US Government.

    There is absolutely no one who can seapk passable Arabic, Hebrew, Pashtu, Persian, Turkish, Urdu much less read or write it.

    Such people are all deliberately excluded since US leaders do not want to hear dissident opinions. A deliberate attempt at creation of Group-Think; something that intelligence agencies avoid.

    On the other hand, Middle Easterners are much better versed with US; they may thus be able to formulate better policies.

  13. Fiorangela says:

    James Canning – you wrote, “The Iraq War was enabled by complicit US news media, and the crucial support of the very foolish Tony Blair. ”

    I’m not so sure about the media’s role.
    The Senate held a very vigorous debate, and Robert Byrd was not alone in opposing war on Iraq. You may recall, John Kerry was a candidate for presidency with a tendency to oppose war; Hillary Clinton, whose political machine was advising Kerry’s campaign, strongly advised Kerry to support the war or his candidacy was doomed.

    Tom Daschele was leader of the Senate and a thoroughgoing sellout; disgusting.

    But, if you listen to the debate carefully, you notice that the tide turns when John Warner, initially opposed to war, pivots and decides to support war and urges his fellow senators to join him. Warner was highly respected in the Senate, having been Secy of Navy, iirc, and imbued with Colinesque credibility.

    It’s also worthwhile teasing out the role played by a little-known character, Norman Augustine, who was head of either Lockheed or Martin Marietta when those two companies merged, and was a major player inside the Beltway and in the Bush White House. When I saw Augustine schmmoozing with Bush at a Cosmos Club party, I knew the die was cast: US would have a war, one way or another; the titans of war demanded it.

  14. James Canning says:


    Perceptive comments. And to what degree was the UAE ambassador playing to the emotional needs of the owner of the Atlantic? He seems to be a neocon, and admits to having been a neocon. And, of course, Jeff Goldberg is a leading propagandist for the warmongers wanting to spend trillions of American dollars to “protect” Israel

  15. James Canning says:


    You say that “Iran knows that US/Israel will strike Iran if and when they find it in their interest to do so…” I think it is more accurate to say Israel would like the US to attack Iran EVEN IF IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
    This is the crux of the matter: subversion of US national security by the Israel lobby, and by Israel itself.

  16. James Canning says:


    Admittedly, Egypt is vulnerable to pressure from the US due to its receipt of extensive aid. On the other hand, Egypt and Iran want to push forward with pressuring Israel to sign the NPT and to achieve a Middle East free of nukes.
    Egypt also wants the UN to recognize Palestine as an independent country, assuming little or no progress is made in Obama’s effort to advance a settlement of the Israel/Palestine problem.

  17. James Canning says:

    Richard Steven Hack,

    The warmongers in the US Senate, including Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, do not have free rein to take the US into an insane war with Iran. The Iraq War was enabled by complicit US news media, and the crucial support of the very foolish Tony Blair. A very large problem for the warmongers (and other “Israel-firsters”) is that the CIA still has NO INTELIGENCE that Iran is secretly building nukes or wants to build nukes.

  18. Fiorangela,

    “Did the members of the forum you referenced project the status of Iran-Turkey relations ten years down the road?”

    Not that I’ve seen. It would indeed be interesting to hear more from the professor who posted this item.

  19. Fiorangela says:

    Eric, Thanks for posting the Notes that, we may hope, will eventually become the dissertation and publication in a forward-looking shift in the US foreign policy community.

    You may be aware of Reese Ehrlich’s journalism on PKK; he discusses his book, “The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis” here.

    Ehrlich’s experiences traveling in Iran mirrored Stephen Kinzer’s: the Iranian people were friendly, very pleased to offer hospitality to an American, and very well informed of US political as well as pop cultural affairs. And, like Robert Baer in “The Devil That We Know,” Ehrlich perceives a US relationship with Iran as in the best interests of the US and a more comfortable cultural fit than, say, the US relationship with Saudi Arabia. But — my purpose is NOT to exacerbate cleavages; US should be big enough and wise enough to love them both.

    Ehrlich reports and shows slides of PKK partisans that US arms, pays, and directs to harass Iran; “a dangerous game the US is playing,” according to Ehrlich.

    Did the members of the forum you referenced project the status of Iran-Turkey relations ten years down the road?

  20. Serifo says:

    As far as Iran is concerned , some Arab regimes are faced with a strategic dilemma :

    1 – If they keep on supporting the U.S status quo , while more countries in the region are resisting the same , they risk being isolated from their key neighbours and most importantly from the rising eastern alliances.With the decline of the U.S power and the rising eastern powers , the Arab regimes will end up big losers likewise the Zionist regime ( if the Palestinian issue is ignored )!

    2 – If they show reluctance or resist supporting the status quo , their neoconservatives masters in Washington will be very mad! And we all know that the next step for the neocons is then : Regime change ! Either a CIA orchestrated regime changed or economic sanctions followed by military actions !

    Now since the American taxpayers are sic of funding wars and the Europeans are sic of U.S war adventures , for the long term I think the Arab regimes are better off with the option 2.

  21. fyi says:


    The Sheikhdoms with US/EU basis in the Souther Persian Gulf were warned 3 years ago that they will be targets in the event of a war.

    That is understood.

  22. fyi says:

    Bussed-in Basiji:

    There will be no war.

    But otherwise you are correct.

  23. Bussed-in Basiji says:

    Dear Participants
    Please (re-)read the Alastair Crooke article posted earlier. It describes the rising power of the northern tier states Iran, Turkey and Syria and the falling power of Saudi and Egypt. The center of power in the UAE has always been Abu Dhabi because of its oil reserves and the Abu Dhabi sheikhs have been strategically aligned with Saudis since independence. The relationship of other emirates in the UAE with Iran range from friendly to hostile to indifferent.

    Qatar, Oman and Bahrain have chosen to be friendly with Iran for their own reasons. The core of this conflict is the relative increase of regional power of Iran vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia which perceived the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran as a fundamental threat to its political and religious power in the region. So the issue is a larger power shift occurring in the Persian Gulf with various sheikhs and countries trying to align themselves as they see fit.

    As I wrote earlier I don’t think that the US and Israel will let this power shift occur without a military attack on Iran in order to prevent or delay it, however the military conflict will not delay the shift but on the contrary will accelerate and consolidate the power shift.

  24. Fiorangela says:

    I wonder how UAE complicity in a war on Iran will impact the bridge and new towns the bin Ladens are financing between Djibouti and Yemen. One of the hopes for the bridge is that it will stimulate hajji traffic from Yemen. Bear in mind that the US first became deeply involved with Saudi Arabia, by means of Aramco’s Tapline through the Saudi desert, in the period immediately after World War II, when SA experienced serious decline in pilgrimage tourism, then a major source of revenue.

  25. Slightly off topic, but here is how the US Senate sees war with Iran:

    ‘US will attack Iran if it must’

    The “Senator From Israel”, Joseph Lieberman, made it clear that the US will use military force if necessary to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

    Lindsay Graham was even more egregious in prostrating himself before Israelis:

    “The Congress has Israel’s back,” he said, “and never misunderstand that. Whatever relationship problems we have had in the past, it has never seeped over into Congress. The Congress has been united in protection of one of our best allies in the world, the State of Israel.”

    Compared to these statements, the UAE representative was pretty laid back.

    Any questions? The US Senate and Congress are OWNED by Israel and the military-industrial complex in the US that presses every US war.

    And I still have people poo-poohing the notion that the US intends to attack Iran. Does anybody think a war vote in the Senate would be over-ruled with these clowns leading the pack?

    No, these idiots are not just making nice words for the benefit of Israelis. They really believe this stuff. They DO want to attack Iran, the sooner the better. Their only problem is whether they can avoid being BLAMED for the attack when the war goes horribly wrong – as it inevitably will, just as Iraq and Afghanistan have.

  26. Castellio says:

    Well, Dariush, I think the primary target for Al-Otaiba’s comments is the educated American public (assuming that’s a narrow band, rather than an oxymoron), where it does make a surprising difference.

    Going into Iraq, the presence of the UK made a huge impact on the average American. The allies were fighting the bad guys, once again, just like under Churchill. Tony Blair, a Socialist (!!) agreed with Bush, the Republican – the cause must transcend petty interests!! “Man oh Man! are we on the right side of history or what!!”

    Okay, so now Iran. The UK probably isn’t in. Israel is regarding with a certain amount of justified suspicion – “we’re not dying for their expansion are we?” – “but listen, listen, I heard that all the Arab countries in the neighborhood agree that Iran is “bad” and needs to be “put in its place”. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE (add to list as possible)… as well as Israel! So, we are on the right side of history yet again!! It is a burden, a heavy burden, but one must heed the call.” (Obama will be great at singing this doleful but inspiring tune).

    “And, obviously, the animus is not in any way anti-Muslim because Egypt and Saudi Arabia support it. Hey! Give us a break with your ignorant comments already!”

    You may think I’m being simplistic… but Americans want to believe that they are pursuing virtuous actions for lesser peoples, not maintaining a brutal empire. That spin, on the domestic front, is critical.

    So, the Al-Otaiba comment will play a small but vital role in helping to prepare the “chattering classes” for the next bout of virtuous murder by the US military…

  27. Dariush says:

    Mr. Al-Otaiba’s remarks, the statement by UAE Foreign Ministry are not unexpected. And, Dr. Husain Ali’s observations are apt. In relation to Dr. Ali’s observations, it is worth recalling that prior to 9/11, the Taliban were recognized by only three governments — UAE, S. Arabia, and Pakistan.

    It is worth pondering the effects of Mr. Al-Otaiba’s remarks in the region, in the United States, and on the ongoing US-Iran confrontation. My random thoughts are as follows:

    1) The remarks puts the Gulf Arab rulers on the defensive vis-a-vis Iran. What the Arab rulers fear most is their own public, and that fear is justifiably heightened through the appearance of complicity with the US and Israel against regional states, including Iran. As a result, the Gulf Arab countries would be less enthusiastic to impose sanctions on Iran on behest of the United States than they would have been prior to Mr. Al-Otaiba’s remarks. It is in Iran’s interest to give as much publicity to Al-Otaiba’s remarks as possible.

    2) Mr. Al-Otaiba’s remarks will not affect Iran’s nuclear, military, and diplomatic calculus. Iran has said that it regards United States complicit in any Israeli attack on Iran, and will hit US bases and interests in the Persian Gulf. (i.e.,”will set the Persian Gulf on fire). By implication, Iran will regard the Gulf Arab rules complicit in any US/Israel military strike on Iran. At the same time, Iran knows that US/Israel will strike Iran if and when they find it in their interest to do so …irrespective of the views, interest or advise of Arab rulers.

    3) Mr. Al-Otaiba’s remarks are unlikely to have significant impact in the United States. They will not be of much help in further demonizing Iran, Ahmadinejad, etc. It is unlikely that the US electorate will endorse military strike against Iran to make the Persian Gulf safer for the Gulf rulers and the likes of Ambassador Al-Otaiba.
    The remarks will add some credibility to the fiction of Alliance of moderate Arabs and Israel against Iran. That fiction may marginally add to US support for Israel, while weakening the moderate Arab rulers hold on power.

  28. DWZ says:

    {The UAE cooperated with the sanctions and bombing of Iraq, not because the Arabs considered Hussein more of a threat than Israel, but because that’s what their colonial patrons told them to do. It is disappointing, but there is no deeper story than that.}

    What these puppet have gained after a century of total subordination. Everyone in the region agrees that due to their full cooperation with the war criminals they are TOTALLY DEFFEATED AND PEOPLE INCLUDING ARAB POPULATION HAVE NO RESPECT for these ‘leaders’ who are in the service of the empire.

    Saudi Arabia is not that stupid to think Iran is a problem to their defeated position. Did not they help Saddam to launch an attack on Iran. The United States was responsible for that attack and still Iranians see it that way. With no green light from the war criminals Iran would have not been attacked by Saddam.


  29. Rehmat says:

    The rulers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Kuwait are living inside fool’s paradise. They pose no threat to Islamic Republic – not even to Syria or Hizbullah. They’re more concerned with their thrones than facing the reality – which is that the old colonial powers have been replaced by new players in the Middle East – Islamic Iran, Turkey and Hizbullah.

    Imam Khomeini made three predictions in the 1980s – Communism will soon be found in the museums; the Arab puppet regimes would only survive by the active protection of US military and the Zionist regime would be wiped-off the Middle East. His first two predictions have already come true.

    Russia’s support for the latest round of US-engineered sanctions, passed on June 9 against Islamic Iran at the UN Security Council, can be seen as a blessing in disguise for Tehran. Russia’s subordination to the strategic goals of the US, which is to eliminate the Islamic government in Iran at any cost, has clarified Iran-Russia relations. It has also cleared the simplistic perspective that Iran and Russia were somehow strategic allies. Until now Russia and Iran could not clearly define their relationship, but Russian support for the latest round of anti-Iran sanctions and President Ahmedinejad’s warning to Russia clearly shows that Iran and Russia do not share a common vision of the world……


  30. Arnold Evans says:

    It may sound like a broken record to say “stooge, stooge, stooge” but who is this guy accountable to? Who can remove him from office? If there is no party or body he fears more than the US’ CIA and the rest of the US’ imperial apparatus, then who does he speak for?

    His job is to put a local face on American policies and that’s the job he’s doing. When we talk about what the “UAE” wants instead of what the last colonial-era dictators report on behalf of their patrons, we are missing the most important aspect of dependent Middle East politics, which is the role the US plays in preventing representative governments from arising in the region and the role Israel’s security plays in motivating the US to oppose democracy in the region.

    The UAE cooperated with the sanctions and bombing of Iraq, not because the Arabs considered Hussein more of a threat than Israel, but because that’s what their colonial patrons told them to do. It is disappointing, but there is no deeper story than that.

    Except the deep story that the UAE, to the degree the US has influence over it, will never allow its subjects to participate in its politics.

  31. DWZ says:

    {That said, I don’t conclude (as WigWag does) that this UEA ambassador was “practically inviting” the US to attack Iran. I suspect he’d like the US to do something, other than to attack Iran, that would give the UAE some assurance that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.}

    Why UEA is afraid of Iran’s future ‘nuclear weapon’ but is not afraid of Israel’s 400 illegal nuclear weapons ready to go?
    The Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is nothing but a puppet. No one including Arab population pays any attention or respect to these Zionist stooges. All Arabs do not want another war. He has directed to say such a stupid remark to encourage other states in the region to do the same. I assure you no major power in the region will be fooled to repeat his stupid remark.
    UEA is basically a puppet of Saudi Arabia. Everyone in the region knows that the so called ‘Arab moderate states’ have been defeated in the region. Saudis are the one who carries majority of terror and booming and killing on behalf of the United States in Iraq and then they frame ‘Al Qaeda’ where DOES NOT EXISTS.
    هیچکس برای این نوکرصفتان تره هم خرد نمی کند.

    NO ONE INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES, EXCEPT ISRAEL, WANTS MORE WARS IN THE REGION. The Zionist stooges at the WH must pay attention not to be fooled again.

  32. James,

    “Sometimes a diplomat will be encouraged to say something, that can be used as a trial balloon, and is then disavowed from headquarters.”

    I acknowledge that, but I don’t think the UAE ambassador’s comments fall into that category. Usually the “trial balloon” type of comment is a bit more carefully phrased than his remarks so that, if headquarters sees fit to “clarify” the remarks, it’s not quite so difficult to reconcile the conflicting statements.

    That said, I don’t conclude (as WigWag does) that this UEA ambassador was “practically inviting” the US to attack Iran. I suspect he’d like the US to do something, other than to attack Iran, that would give the UAE some assurance that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. If the US can’t accomplish that, I am confident that you and the Leveretts are correct that the UAE would prefer to accept the uncertainty than to have the US attack Iran.

  33. James Canning says:

    Richard Steven Hack,

    Excellent points. If you are a fan of mondoweiss.net, don’t miss Philip Weiss’s comments: “Petraeus emails show general scheming with journalist to get out pro-Israel storyline”. The subject journalist, Max Boot (formerly of the Wall Street Journal and of course a leading neocon), calls Mark Perry a “terrorist groupie”. Boot’s comments on some of us might be interesting reading!

  34. A plain reading of the official’s comments, IF reported accurately, clearly show he is in favor of suppressing Iran’s nuclear program and in general reflects a considerable hostility to Iran. And it clearly indicates that he would probably accept a military attack on Iran – IF it didn’t inconvenience him personally.

    Extending this to mean every Arab state does so is probably wrong, although it is clear that Persia has always been considered “different” – and thereby in human nature, “wrong” – than the rest of the Muslim world, not to mention the conflict between Sunni and Shia.

    I’ve little doubt that the Saudis and the UAE don’t like Iran. The reason they don’t want a war with Iran is because Iran will determine if those countries are supporting the war and will retaliate. Also, the war might in various asymmetric ways, spill over into their countries. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like to see Iran messed with by the US, or in other ways than direct military attack. And of course they’d prefer that Israel not benefit by such an attack, which is their real conundrum – anything done against Iran will only benefit Israel and nobody else.

    All of which is completely irrelevant to the main point – Israel is the problem. Goldberg’s pathetic attempt to declare that Israel is not the main instigator of the Iran “crisis” is just that – a pathetic neocon Zionist lie.

  35. James Canning says:


    Tens of thousands of Syrians want to return to their homes in the Golan Heights, after Israel withdraws. Getting Israel out of the Golan Heights has been an object of British foreign policy since just after the June 1967 war. (Lyndon Johnson very stupidly refused to give Britain adequate support for its effort to get Israel out of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

    Syria recognizes Lebanese independence.

    Jordan is a strong supporter of the Saudi peace plan (calling for independent Palestine in West Bank and Gaza).

  36. Nasser says:

    “Jordan wants Israel out of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.”

    Jordan doesn’t want a Palestinian state on its western border. The Hashemites might pay lip service to such a thing but they are about as hostile to the West Bank Palestinians as the Mubarak regime is to the Gazans. And no one cares about the Golan. Syria only wants Lebanon! Oh and to keep their Sunni constituents happy by always yapping about Golan and the damned Israelis!

  37. James Canning says:


    Jordan does not want another murderous Israeli rampage in Gaza. Jordan did not want the 2008-2009 rampage in Gaza. Jordan wants Israel out of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

  38. James Canning says:


    Good points. Sometimes a diplomat will be encouraged to say something, that can be used as a trial balloon, and is then disavowed from headquarters. That said, I doubt the UAE wants any attack on Iran.

  39. Off-topic here, though relevant to other recent discussion on this website. The quoted passage is a post from another Iran-related forum. I won’t identify the author, since I’m not yet clear on what the protocol is on that other forum for quoting posts made by others. But I think many here will find this interesting:


    “This is meant to add some Turkish perspective to the discussion.

    A Turkish doctoral student of mine recently returned from a six month visit interviewing over a hundred officials, politicians, ‘experts,’ etc. A mature man with a career in the security domain himself, he was able to elicit quite candid thoughts from highly placed people – active and retired. The following points emerge from his discussions.

    1. The Turkish entente with Iran has been developing for seven years. It is part of a comprehensive strategic assessment that stresses: the value to Turkey as a status quo power of maintaining good relations with all its neighbors; the current opportunity for doing so in an historic first. Turkey’s principal national interest is viewed as sustaining the rapid pace of economic development in which secure energy supplies play a major role.

    2. 2003 is an important date because at that time the intelligence services reached the conclusion that two active terrorist groups (Hezbullah in Turkey was one) had no connection with Iran as had been presumed. The judgment was made that they were creatures of the “deep security state” that sought to undermine Erdogan and has party by creating unrest that could be blamed on him. Some suspect an ancillary role in this for Israel and the CIA.

    3. The Iraq occupation rekindled fears of a renewed Kurdish PKK threat thanks to its links and presence in the autonmous Kurdish north of Iraq that had full American support. Strenuous Turkish efforts to obtain information from the U.S. about PKK camps and operations in Iraq met first with stonewalling and then a flurry of intelligence that proved to be useless. That experience soured major elements of the secular Turkish security establishment toward the U.S.

    4. The Islamist tinge of Erdogan’s Party at first was an OBSTACLE to improved relations with Iran. The latter’s radical and violent fundamentalism ran against the grain of the party’s base of practicing Muslims because it directly contradicted their conception of Islam and also hurt their party’s image among the Turkish public.

    5. Turkish leaders are less exercised by the Iranian nuclear program for these reasons: Turks are accustomed to playing the game of power politics and are a self-confident people – unlike the Arab states; they do not believe that Iran is rushing pell-mell to build a bomb; and they are convinced that the only strategy that could work to ‘neutralize’ it is comprehensive negotiations with Iran (as Tehran proposed in April 2003) that would cover all manner of security issues of concern to Iran, the US, and regional parties. They want a role in that process.

    6. The Turkish government, not just Erdogan, feels that it was misled and then disrespected by Washington in regard to the Turko-Brazilian initiative. That is an added factor to a considered Turkish conviction that it cannot trust American strategy, tactical decisions and leadership on all manner of issues in the Greater Middle East. Their cold-eyed view of what we’ve done in Iran, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan is that the Americans have poor judgment, are reckless and do not care what others in the region think.. We are seen as slap-dash, ignorant of local realities and bull headed.

    7. While there are some, especially in the military, somewhat discomforted by the resulting strains with Washington, a wide consensus has crystallized in support of both the analysis and prescription.

    It would be nice if some folks in the think-tank world and the press were as attentive to what’s going on in Turkey instead of indulging in wishful thinking.”

  40. WigWag,

    As you must know, Egypt has no right to deny military ships access to the Suez Canal. Why do you draw any conclusion from the passage of Israeli vessels through the Canal?

    As you must know, the Saudis deny having granted fly-over permission for Israeli planes. Do you really disbelieve that denial simply because many stories reported otherwise, or do you have other reasons?

  41. James,

    You wrote: “The WAM news agency quotes the UAE deputy foreign minister, Tareq al-Harden, as saying his country “rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.” This is the only rational position.”

    I have no comment on the general topic here, but I will say that I’m not persuaded by some official denial from the UAE. In the Leverett’s piece, they do not claim that Eli Lake or Jeff Goldberg misquoted the UAE’s ambassador. If he was not saying what other high-level UAE officials believe, I would prefer to see more evidence of that. Disciplinary action by his government would be convincing, for example, though I acknowledge that’s unlikely. In the absence of that, a “clarifying” statement from his very own lips might be more persuasive than an official press release from headquarters.

  42. paul says:

    Wig Wag, I don’t think Iran has a nuclear weapons program of any significance. We are being lied into war by Obama even more blatantly and shamelessly than we were lied into war by Bush.

    As for how the war will play out, my expectation is that Israel will start it, but the US will quickly take over, while Israel concentrates on attacking Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. The Obama Regime will seek to quickly establish air superiority over Iran, presumably with no trouble, and then will seek to suppress the Revolutionary Guard, allowing the presumably US-backed Rafsanjani Faction (hyped as the “Green Revolution”) to seize power. If this goes according to what seems likely to be the plan, no one will bother with the reality that the US just abrogated the sovereignty of every single nation on earth and openly fought a war of aggression, thus also abrogating international law: they will give Obama another Nobel prize for taking down the heavily (and mostly falsely) demonized Iranian regime. If things get more messy? Well, ya gotta break some eggs…

    Ironically, no doubt one of the reasons Saudi Arabia and the UAE hate Iran is that, comparatively, Iran is probably a far more genuine democracy!! That’s all relative, of course.

  43. paul says:

    Clearly Saudi Arabia and the UAE want plausible deniability, just as Obama does, speaking out both sides of their mouths. Everyone but Israel wants to be in position to say “what, me?” Israel, as always, wants more swagger, always wants more swagger.

    Re. the always blame Iran’s government sector: so true. If only Iran’s government understood that Might always Makes Right, they would know that the best course is always to side with the winning team.

    Re. respect: if you want respect, Leveretts, I suggest you post real analysis instead of diplomacy group think = lies and distortions. Take this paragraph that you seem to be so proud of:

    ““On Iran, the Saudis are like the Americans in that they know what they want but do not know how to achieve it. They want the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraq, stop supporting extremist groups and, most important, stop enriching uranium. They do not believe the latest round of economic sanctions will deter Iran, but they oppose military action by the United States—or, worse yet, Israel—to halt the nuclear program. Any such attack, they fear, would cause chaos in the Gulf and prompt Iran to strike at them as a way of inflicting pain on the United States. ”

    Of course, as we all know, that’s a pack of lies. No one seriously wants Iran to stop ‘meddling in Iraq’, because they know that not only has Iran contributed to stability in Iraq, but that to demand that it have no influence in the politics of its neighboring country is simply insane, and that it isn’t “meddling” for neighbors to influence each other, and that if anyone should stop meddling in Iraq, it’s clearly the US and Saudi Arabia. Imagine demanding that the US cease ‘meddling’ in Mexico. No one would take such a demand seriously for a fraction of a second. Neighbors influence each other, period. Nor is anyone seriously interested in preventing Iran from influencing extremist groups. They just want Iran to stop supporting the Palestinians and Lebanese against Israel. It’s purely political. How can notorious supporters of violent extremists such as the US and Saudi Arabia seriously demand that another country not support ‘extremists’? They can’t. Everyone knows they can’t. What they want, put much more honestly, is for Iran to support extremists that the US and Saudi Arabia APPROVE OF. And so on. These are all demands for political acquiescence from Iran, MASQUERADING as issue-based demands.

    And, of course, if the US and Saudi Arabia (and UAE) really didn’t want war, they not only would stop talking out both sides of their mouths, but they would stop pushing the lies and distortions that have been heating up the war escalation.

    Any analysis that wants to be taken seriously needs to acknowledge that. If you want respect, you need to earn it. This isn’t your precious little beltway world of groupthink lies, Leverettes. The folks out here in reality world can actually think for themselves. We see through the bullshit that you choose to reverence, because it comes from people with masses of credentials, most of which mean little, or even less.

  44. WigWag says:

    So lets try to sort it all out:

    (1)Numerous stories come out on more than one occassion suggesting that Saudi Arabia will permit Israeli aircraft to overfly Saudi Arabia on the way to attack Iranian nuclear installations.

    (2)Egypt permits Israel on at least two occassions to have its warships and submarines (that may very well be carrying nuclear weapons) traverse the Suez Canal.

    (3)Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority avert their eyse and thus essentially “green-light” the Israeli attack on Hamas in Gaza in the hope that the Iranian client will be taken down a notch or two.

    (4)The Ambassador to the UAE practically invites the U.S. to attack Iran (any other reading simply ignores the plain meaning of the words in his statement).

    Has it occurred to the Leveretts and Ben Katcher that at the very least, the Sunni Arab world is trying to send Iran a message. Regardless of whether they would actually invite an attack or not, have the proprietors of this blog considered the possibility that the Sunni Arab nations want Iran to believe that its quest for nuclear weapons could have potentially devastating consequences for it?

    The Leveretts and Katcher remind me of the Wizard of Oz; they want the Rubes to believe that the Wizard is actually that ominous looking ball of fire who shouts out orders to his frightened viewers, when actually he’s little more than a confused old man hiding behind a curtain.

    Like that confused old man, when Toto pulls the curtain open and reveals who the Wizard really is, his initial response is simple; he says “ignore that man behind the curtain.”

    Similarly, the Leveretts (and young Ben) would like us to pretend that all of the signals being sent by the Sunni Arab world aren’t there. They want us to ignore the plain meaning of words and they want us to ignore obvious signals that in any other context they would clearly acknowledge as the effort to send a message.

    They better watch out though and they should keep looking up; I have a feeling that someone is about to drop a house on their theory of how the Iran scenerio is going to play out.

    Or maybe that’s not a house about to be dropped; maybe its Obama about to drop a few bombs.

  45. Nasser says:

    This just further highlights how incompetent Iran’s current government is in conducting its foreign policy. Why would you go out and make an enemy out of someone like Israel when they were the only ones backing you against Iraq when these Arabs were financing the usage of chemical weapons on Iran’s cities. Why go out and make an enemy out of someone who is not close to you and have no territorial disputes with you when you already have all these hostile neighbors to deal with?!

  46. Nasser says:

    James Canning: “…”rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.” This is the only rational position.”

    American encouragement has a strange impact on otherwise reasonable people’s sensibilities i.e. Georgia poking Russia in the eye. Has Abu Dhabi considered what its likely course of action will be in the unlikely scenario of US having a rapprochement with Iran?

  47. James Canning says:

    The WAM news agency quotes the UAE deputy foreign minister, Tareq al-Harden, as saying his country “rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.” This is the only rational position.

  48. James Canning says:

    Jeff Goldberg is a neocon propagandist favoring Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and a US military attack on Iran, intended to enable Israel to continue to oppress the Palestinians without interference from other countries.

  49. Nasser says:

    Nahyan of Abu Dhabi likened Iran’s possession of the three islands to the Israeli occupation of Palestine!!!

    Iran can learn a lot from India on how to deal with its neighbors. It is actually a blessing that Iran isn’t in GCC where it can be ganged up on. India figured out that in regional forums it can be ganged up on by a collection of weaker parties; in bilateral meetings it is always in a position of strength.