By Iran Review
By Davoud Ahmadzadeh
Tension has built up between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a recent visit by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Iranian island of Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf followed by Iran’s emphasis on its sovereign right over three Iranian islands – Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa.
During his visit to the Abu Musa, President Ahmadinejad stressed Iran’s sovereignty over the three islands despite UAE’s disputes, mentioning a host of historical reasons and documents. His remarks elicited a hasty and irresponsible reaction from UAE officials. Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, in an effort to distort historical facts, said Iranian president’s Abu Musa trip was violation of his country’s sovereign right to the island. Other Emirati officials have also launched a massive media hype following the trip. Backed by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC], they have been fanning the flames of regional discord in order to turn this issue into an international crisis. To reject UAE’s recent claims which have been held up by its regional and western allies, it would suffice to remind them of undeniable historical documents about Iran’s unconditional sovereignty over the three islands. Meanwhile, the agreement signed by Iran’s former Shah and Emir of Sharjah has been confirmed by all international bodies, including the United Nations. Therefore, new allegations about violation of UAE’s sovereignty by the Sheikdom’s leaders amount to a false claim. On the other hand, allegations that Sharjah sheikdom had been cornered and forced into signing the agreement are not worthy enough to be raised at a court of law and cannot be taken as a legal proof to UAE’s sovereignty over three Iranian islands.
Historical experiences have shown that UAE has always tried to maintain its internal integrity by creating false enemies and introducing Iran’s measures as a source of threat. On the other hand, in addition to moving in line with the United States’ regional policies, UAE officials have also availed themselves of financial and political capacities of (P)GCC to oppose Iran’s positions. As a result, in no other country but UAE has the concept of foreign threat been so effective in making members of a federation discard their differences and become more integrated. However, apart from the traditional effort to create an assumed foreign enemy and increase solidarity inside political structure of UAE, incorrect understanding of regional developments may be also an effective factor which had tempted UAE to repeat baseless claims of the past in the vain hope of gaining sovereignty over the islands.
It seems that presence of the US and British naval forces in the Persian Gulf and escalation of economic and political pressures and sanctions against Iran over the country’s peaceful nuclear energy program have made Emirati officials mistakenly assume that they are offered with an opportunity to attach Iranian islands to their soil by taking advantage of the power components of the US and its allies. The West, however, is not ready despite its anti-Iranian measures at the UN Security Council to back UAE’s claims and engage in overt military intervention in this issue. On the other side, Iran’s engagement in a new round of negotiations with group P5+1 in Istanbul and the outlook of possible resilience on both sides aimed at reaching an agreement to put a cap on the ongoing political tension is dangerous for the national interests of nascent regimes in the Persian Gulf. Therefore, under current circumstances, UAE is inciting its regional allies in an effort to use the tense atmosphere and take concessions from Iran. At the same time, Iran has proven that it will enter into no deal with any country over its three islands and in case of any tension and foreign intervention it is able to defend these islands with full force. If the situation in the Persian Gulf becomes more chaotic, Iran is undoubtedly not the sole party to be harmed by escalation in tensions, but the whole region will become unstable and insecure if Iran is seriously threatened. Therefore, it is not in the benefit of UAE and its supporters to intensify the tension.
It seems that anti-Iranian measures taken by the West and Israel have infatuated daydreaming officials of Sharjah and Dubai sheikdoms. Therefore, while accompanying the West’s anti-Iranian measures, they are trying through participation in the West’s plans to make their impossible dreams come true. On the other hand, delusional claims of UAE officials about the Iranian islands and leveling threats against their powerful northern neighbor are planned and managed by Saudi Arabia. After spread of the Arab Spring and continuation of the Islamic uprisings in Bahrain and the eastern part of Saudi Arabia, Al Saud family feels more threatened. The totalitarian Saudi regime considers small sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf as its influence domain. After failure in suppressing the uprising of Bahraini people, it is quite possible for that uprising to spill over into other regional countries. As a result of its political structure, UAE seems to be more vulnerable in this regard despite support from the West and Riyadh. Therefore, Saudi Arabia aims to escalate the conflict with Iran due to Tehran’s firm support for the political structure in Syria. Riyadh also aims to maintain its influence on these sheikdoms by banking on Pan-Arabic ideas to prevent further development of Iran’s natural influence in the region. Given the fact that Iran owns at least half of the Persian Gulf and is in control of its most sensitive strategic part, namely the Strait of Hormuz, it is quite illegal and illegitimate to ignore Iran’s national interests and sovereign right to such a highly strategic part of its territory as the three islands in the Persian Gulf. Last but not least, the existing critical conditions in the region call on UAE leaders to avoid of leveling baseless and repetitive charges against the Iranian nation by resorting to media hype. If they really seek to dispel misunderstandings over three Iranian islands, they can do it through dialogue and diplomatic mechanisms.
Faculty Member, Inter-cultural Studies, Islamic Azad University-Tehran
Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review