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UAE is now the ‘number one’ exporter to Iran

October 19, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Emirati flag fluttering above Dubai’s marina with the Burj Al Arab landmark hotel in the background [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]

In a further sign of a thaw in relations between Iran and the UAE, the Gulf state has become the number one exporter of goods to the Islamic Republic, according to the latest data released by the Iranian Customs Authority.

The authority’s spokesman, Ruhollah Latifi, released figures on Sunday showing that goods exported from the UAE to Iran were valued at $7 billion over the past six months. This is nearly three times more than the second placed country, Turkey, with trade valued at $2.4bn. This is followed by Russia with $639 million, Iraq with $499m and Oman with $270m. Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were also mentioned by Latifi.

The UAE also ranks high as a major importer of goods from Iran. Despite years of apparent hostility, the Gulf state has become a key market for Tehran. Iraq tops the list of importers from Iran, with goods valued at nearly $4bn. Turkey is again ranked second, with $2.3bn, and the UAE is in third place with $2.2bn.

Latifi pointed out that trade between Iran and its 15 neighbours had a value of $22.5bn during the first six months of the current Iranian year, which began on 21 March. Iran’s exports to regional countries amounted to 51.5 per cent of its total exports.

Read: UAE official says time to manage rivalry with Iran and Turkey

On 20 September, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed his hope for the development of bilateral relations between his country and the UAE in various fields, especially the economy. This was a far cry from the hostility seen during the four years of the Trump administration in Washington. The former US President spearheaded a campaign to isolate Iran, supported by the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Read: UAE Foreign Minister says he will visit Israel soon

Under a policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Tehran, Trump walked away unilaterally from the Iran nuclear deal agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama, and imposed fresh sanctions. The UAE and Saudi Arabia ramped up pressure on Qatar by imposing a blockade in 2017, justified in part because Doha had cordial relations with the Islamic Republic.

While there has been reduced hostility between Washington and Tehran due in part to the election of US President Joe Biden, the US and Iran nevertheless have major points of disagreement, especially over how to deal with Israel’s apparently never-ending occupation of Palestine.

The UAE has led Arab normalisation of relations with Israel, upending decades of regional consensus. Iran remains the strongest opponent of the colonial-occupation state and insists that normalisation should be a reward for ending the occupation of Palestine.