Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al KetbiCourtesy

The revival of the Iran nuclear deal undermines the Abraham peace agreement between the UAE and Israel. This conclusion is peddled by some pundits in the West who believe that any US agreement with Iran would lead to the dissolution of the peace agreement between the UAE and other Gulf and Arab states that signed peace accords about two years ago.

This assertion attracts attention, is worthy of discussion, and we see it as an opportunity to clarify some issues and points that are missing in some Western research circles, especially with regard to understanding the preconditions and motives that led the UAE to sign the Abraham Peace Agreement with Israel.

And this without excluding the hypothesis that the marketing of this perception is aimed at maximizing pressure on the Biden administration to dissuade it from efforts to revive the nuclear agreement and to warn of the possible consequences. This is an understandable goal. But we must verify its veracity so it does not become perpetuated reality.

The basis of the previous hypothesis is that the UAE’s position specifically on normalizing relations with Israel is based on the assumption that it wants to build a defensive alliance that will protect it from a possible Iranian threat.

From my researcher’s vantage point, this is not the case at all.

Several reasons account for this, foremost among them being the fact that the UAE is not at war with Iran. It is true that Iran occupies three Emirati islands, namely Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa. The UAE has taken a position that rejects the Iranian sectarian expansionist project.

It is worried about Iran’s interference in the affairs of countries in the region and the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. It also has grave concerns about addressing the many loopholes, problems, and negative aspects that the nuclear agreement has harbored since it was signed in 2015.

But none of this changes the fact that there are diplomatic channels of communication with the Iranian side that both sides are struggling to maintain, despite the ebb and flow of relations at the official level. Everyone notes that after the peace agreement with Israel, the UAE sent its ambassador back to Tehran. There are mutual official visits and contacts.

Everyone also knows that Emirati diplomacy has recently moved toward a “zero problem” approach that thaws the ice, builds bridges, and creates channels of communication with everyone in the Middle East. This is part of the stated strategic vision to focus on development and economic building, away from the dialectic of disagreement.

It is therefore incoherent to link the revival or non-revival of the nuclear agreement on the one hand and the growing peace between the UAE and Israel on the other. The two parallel paths do not meet. The second path was not built on the first.

Peace with Israel has been driven by the common interests expressed in existing cooperation and growing trade and technological exchanges, and the calm between the two countries regardless of what happens with efforts to revive the nuclear agreement signed with Iran or escalating tensions, at least at the level of political discourse between Iran and Israel.

Quite simply, the Abraham Agreement was not a response to the UAE or other countries feeling threatened by Iran. This threat is neither new nor fleeting.

It has, in fact, existed since the emergence of the Iranian Revolution and the state of provocation in which the regime chants slogans of “exporting the revolution” and interferes in one way or another in the affairs of countries in the region, as well as a long list of Iranian practices that pose a major threat to the security and stability of the Gulf region.

The economic, trade, investment, scientific and industrial cooperation that has marked the peaceful atmosphere between the UAE and Israel since its inception more than two years ago is the real reason for peace and nothing else.

So, this forced linkage of the Abraham peace agreement with the Iran nuclear deal is directly informed by Iranian propaganda, which speaks of military alliances that exist only in the imagination of its propagandists. Efforts to revive the Iran nuclear agreement are arguably clinically dead. But no one wants to proclaim failure to avoid responsibility.

The claim that the rest of the region does not want to normalize relations with Israel out of fear of Iran is completely false. There are balances and precise calculations that determine the positions of the other Gulf and Arab countries. This calculation has nothing to do with Iran whatsoever.

So, we need to look at the policies and interests of the GCC countries from a perspective well removed from the notion of being dependent on a regional party.

Everyone can see how these countries formulate their policies and manage their international relations with a sense of proportion and according to their strategic interests. The first thing to understand is that the countries are not subject to the dictates of the regional party and do not fear its wrath.

One of the motivations for this development is that the GCC countries have realized that the US is no longer the kind of partner that prioritizes existing commitments and acts according to its own interests, whether on the Iran issue or otherwise.

Consequently, these countries have sought their strategic interests, which are not necessarily military or security interests, east and west, as well as with their Israeli neighbor. The expected return on cooperation is hard to set aside. In conclusion, linking the nuclear deal to the Abraham Agreement fails to have any factual basis.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst