Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has stated that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is attempting to become the region's "second Israel" by increasing its arms imports.
In the interview with Al Araby TV yesterday, Zarif said that "three countries in the region believe they can maintain their security through their relations with the United States," in reference to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel. He added, however, that they would be wrong to believe the weapons can guarantee security from the US, as they would be used to achieve the goals of Israel.
Studies have shown that the UAE's arms imports increased by 63 per cent between 2012 and 2016, and that its military spending is predicted to grow from $23.6 billion in 2016 to $31.8 billion by 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The increase in weapons imports and military spending reflect the increasingly interventionist policies adopted by the UAE in recent years, including its involvement in the Saudi-led coalition's war against the Houthis in Yemen, its support for and backing of Libya's warlord Khalifa Haftar, and its stakes in the ports of east Africa.
To these ends, it has enacted a combined strategy of funding leading figures and building its own army of foreign mercenaries while developing its armed forces with training from the US military.
The vast majority of the arms the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, imports are manufactured in and are from companies based in the US, making them heavily reliant on American support. Some of many examples is the fact that 78 of the UAE's 138 fighter planes come from the US, and that the US has approved over $68 billion of deals for the two states since the start of the coalition's war in Yemen.
The UAE is also one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries which, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, imposed a blockade on neighbouring Qatar in 2017, causing an ongoing diplomatic crisis. It has also formed an alliance against Iran which it sees as a regional threat.