Ali Bagheri Kani meeting with UAE officials. November 24, 2021

Iran, UAE Moving Toward A Rapprochement After Years of Tensions

Thursday, 12/02/2021

Iran and the United Arab Emirates appear to be taking the first steps toward some sort of rapprochement after years of tense relations and Iranian threats.

During a visit to the United Arab Emirates on November 24, only a few days before leaving for Vienna for nuclear negotiations with world powers, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani pledged on behalf of the Islamic Republic to begin a new chapter in relations with the UAE, Bloomberg reported.

On the same day, Bagheri described the meeting in Dubai with UAE Presidential Adviser Anwar Gargash as “friendly and cordial.”

Three days before Bagheri's visit, Iran and UAE foreign ministers had welcomed the improvement of ties during a telephone conversation. Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that Tehran attaches special importance to its ties with the UAE, particularly in the area of trade.

Iran has been using Dubai as a key outlet to international markets often referring to it as a one-stop-shop that could provide goods to Iran from a variety of Asian and other countries. Many Iranian merchants maintain offices in Dubai where they have residence and business permits. Many other Iranians own real estate in Dubai and foreign-based satellite televisions constantly advertise properties in the UAE Iranians can buy with little or no legal restrictions.

The front page of Iran's Etelaat newspaper in 1971 announcing the capture of three islands two days before the formation of the UAE.

Reports coming from the UAE by the end of November indicated that the United Arab Emirates would soon send a delegation to Iran as part of efforts to improve ties with rival Tehran. Gargash told reporters that the UAE will keep its Arab neighbors and allies including the Saudis "in the picture" about the developments in bilateral ties with Iran.

Some observers believe that attempts toward a rapprochement with Iran are motivated by the general perception in the region, following US withdrawal from Afghanistan, that Washington has shifted its attention from the Middle East to East Asia, and players in the region may no longer be counting on the US to protect them against Iran's ambitions.

Noor News, a website close to the Iranian Supreme Council of National Security, has opined, that Iranian officials would welcome the upcoming visit by a high-ranking UAE delegation, which could be a positive step to reduce tensions. Meanwhile, the website said it is significant that the UAE has started this move while Iran is holding talks in Vienna. The gesture by the UAE would mean that Iran is not an isolated state.

Furthermore, UAE businesses may be showing their willingness to win the lion's share of Iran's foreign trade once US sanctions on Iran's international commerce and banking are lifted if the talks in Vienna prove successful.

Monday November 29 was the 50th anniversary of Iran capturing the three islands of Abu Musa, and the Lesser and Greater Tunb Islands in the Persian Gulf. While many Iranian media reports and social media accounts were cheerful about the anniversary, Turkey's national TV, TRT, on its Arabic Twitter account described the Islands as UAE islands occupied by Iran. This has annoyed Iranians as the dispute over the ownership of the three islands once again found its way into media. Iran at various points provided documents that indicate the islands were rented out to Arabs during the British colonial period.

Although the UAE has made no new claim about the islands, some Iranian media outlets and social media accounts have been talking about a Turkish conspiracy to damage the rapprochement that has been taking shape over the past weeks between Tehran and Abu Dhabi.

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