For Israel and the UAE, Divergence over Iran Proves the Durability of Normalization

Jan. 11 2022

While the threat of a nuclear-armed and expansionist Iran played a role in bringing the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates together, Naftali Bennett’s recent visit to Abu Dhabi shows that the ties between the two go beyond a shared enemy. The UAE has made a number of conciliatory gestures to the Islamic Republic in recent months, but Bennett’s meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed (MBZ) evidently went off without a hitch. Hussain Abdul-Hussain and Shany Mor write:

An examination of the leaders’ joint statement after their meeting, together with a close look at whom the Israeli prime minister did and did not meet in Abu Dhabi, suggests that it is the economy, rather than security, that is pulling the two sides closer together. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached close to $800 million by the end of September. In March, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund to “invest in strategic sectors in Israel.”

Bennett’s meeting with officials in charge of industry and culture but not security and intelligence suggests that—at least publicly—the UAE and Israel do not wish to be seen as creating an anti-Iran front or alliance. True, during their one-on-one meeting, which lasted more than two hours, MBZ and Bennett must have talked about Iran. . . . While MBZ might have expressed private support for a possible Israeli strike on Iran, he must have told his guest that the UAE cannot be publicly supportive of any such action.

The UAE and Israel share many of the same concerns about Iran and many of the same commitments and strategies—but not all. They are separate countries with differing interests and differing priorities. They don’t need to have identical interests and policies on Iran for a deepening of ties, just as they did not need normalization to cooperate on the Iranian threat.

A year on from the initial agreement, and despite all the sour grapes from critics and cynics, normalization seems to be, well, the new normal.

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Read more at Arab News

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli economy, United Arab Emirates

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela