Iranian experts believe that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is working to strengthen its relations with Tehran, in parallel with the rapprochement with Israel.
After the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its general consulate in the city of Mashhad were set on fire at the beginning of 2016, Riyadh decided to break off ties with Tehran, which prompted Abu Dhabi to downgrade the level of its diplomatic representation in the Islamic republic to that of a charge d’ affaires.
However, recent disputes between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi led to an improvement in relations between the UAE and Iran, after worsening for several reasons, most notably the war in Yemen, the disputed islands in the Persian Gulf and the financing of terrorist organisations.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Abu Dhabi sent four planes loaded with medical aid to Tehran. During that period, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a phone call to his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah Bin Zayed.
In July 2019, Tehran hosted the joint meeting of the Iranian and Emirati Coast Guard, for the first time in six years.
The two sides discussed issues of joint border cooperation, the influx of citizens of both countries, and the acceleration of intelligence information exchange.
Recently, Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff of the Iranian presidency, reported that the Emirati position in Yemen has begun to change.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hassan Hani Zadeh, an Iranian expert on Middle East affairs, explained that the four-year blockade imposed on Qatar and the policies pursued by the UAE in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have led to isolating Abu Dhabi.
He added that the UAE’s foreign policy is linked to Saudi Arabia, and that the differences that have arisen over Yemen between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, pushed the latter to divert from this joint demarche for the first time in years.
The Iranian expert highlighted that there have been several differences in recent months between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart Mohammed Bin Zayed, citing the situation in Yemen.
He explained that the strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the UAE offered the Emiratis an opportunity to improve their relations with Iran, adding that: “Following the policies of Mohammad Bin Salman will only result in isolating and causing political and economic damage [for the Emirates].”
Abu Dhabi’s policy consists of taking a step towards Iran, and another towards Israel.
Zadeh stressed that Abu Dhabi needs to pursue independent policies and strengthen its relations with Muslim countries, pointing out that the visit of Emirati officials to Israel contradicts the goals and objectives of the Muslim nation.
In the same context, Zadeh criticised the Emirati position towards Turkey, indicating that the existing differences between Abu Dhabi and Ankara is harmful to the Muslim nation, and: “It is very important that Abu Dhabi seeks to settle its disputes with Turkey.”
Ahmed Destmaljian, former Iranian ambassador to Beirut and expert on regional affairs, pointed to the UAE’s desire to improve its relations with Tehran, citing the medical aid sent from Abu Dhabi and the visit of UAE delegations to Tehran.
He stressed that the existing disputes between Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the Yemeni issue provide an opportunity for new developments, noting that: “Abu Dhabi must adjust its policies on many issues, to achieve stronger cooperation with Iran.”