When asked whether the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would support a possible Israeli air strike against the regime in Tehran to prevent Iran from gaining nukes, UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba said:
A military attack on Iran by whomever would be a disaster, but Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a bigger disaster.”
These were unusually candid words. A military strike, the diplomat continued, would undoubtedly lead to a “backlash.” “There will be problems of people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country,” he said.
But, he added, “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 U.A.E.”
Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman said afterwards that she had never heard anything like it coming from an Arab government official. Otaiba, she added, was “astonishingly honest.”
Indeed, it is rather astonishing for an Arab diplomat to admit that his country is so cowardly it has to outsource their security to Israel’s air force. But as the article goes on to note, it is only surprising to those who aren’t familiar with the prioritization of regional enemies:
Notwithstanding the shocking nature of his remarks, Otaiba was merely expressing, in a public forum, “the standard position of many Arab countries,” says Middle East expert Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic Monthly who moderated the panel discussion in Aspen.
The fact that some Western politicians are unfamiliar with this position has to do with their own ignorance, and with the diplomatic skill with which the smaller Gulf states, in particular, have managed to hide their opposition to their powerful neighbor until now.
“The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years. The Arabs and the Persians have been going at (it) for a thousand,” argues Goldberg on The Atlantic‘s Web site.