An Israeli media report says the United Arab Emirates insists on buying the Iron Dome aerial defense system, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visits the UAE.

Bennett departed Israel on Sunday for Abu Dhabi and is scheduled to meet the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Monday, in the highest-level visit since the countries formalized relations last year.

Israel and the UAE are said to have had security and intelligence cooperation even before they established full relations last year. Both countries are concerned over multiple threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now they can have an open cooperation, possibly in the defense field.

Israel has offered the UAE military cooperation but so far has withheld the sale of its tired-and-tested Iron Dome air defense systems. Israel Hayom reported on Sunday that officials are concerned over close ties between some circles in the UAE and Iran, but at the same time Israel is also concerned about a rapprochement between Tehran and Abu Dhabi.

In a surprising move the UAE sent its top security advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Tehran on December 6, who met with top officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi. The visit took place as Iran’s nuclear talks with world power in Vienna were making no progress and Tehran presented it as a diplomatic victory that regional Sunni Muslim countries were willing to have meetings at top level.

Raisi in his remarks hinted at UAE’s ties with Israel. "The Zionists in the region pursue their evil plans and wherever they can find a foothold, they try to use it as a tool for expansion and sedition, therefore, regional countries should be careful," he said.

UAE’s motives could be both hedging its bets if Iran decides to pursue a nuclear bomb and as a means of pressure on Israel to acquire the air defense systems it wants.

The UAE and its ally Saudi Arabia have been fighting Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen since 2015. They also backed opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. The Sunni Gulf states see Iran’s aggressive regional policies, including arming and financing militant networks as a serious threat to their security. But a nuclear Iran would pose a much higher threat and regional countries might be planning for this contingency.

Current nuclear talks are in deadlock as Iran continues to enrich uranium and gets closer to a nuclear breakout threshold.

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