Explaining the United Arab Emirates’ Recent Meetings with the Leaders of Syria, Israel, and Egypt

March 28 2022

On March 18, the Tehran- and Moscow-backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad came to Abu Dhabi, where he had an audience with the Emirati crown prince Mohammad bin Zayed, leading some to wonder if the UAE remains a stalwart of the regional anti-Iran coalition. But a few days later, bin Zayed flew to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with the country’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The three reportedly discussed containing Iran, the situation in Ukraine, and trade ties. And yesterday and today Israel is hosting another summit in the Negev, attended by the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and the UAE, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Eyal Zisser sees behind this flurry of diplomacy an effort led by the Emirates, and backed by Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to shore up its alliances in anticipation of a nuclear deal that will give Iran “a tailwind for further belligerence across the Middle East.” He explains:

Israel has adopted an aggressive approach to the Iranians, predicated mostly on trying to dislodge them wherever they have a foothold, especially in Syria. . . . If Israel is the bad cop, then the Emiratis have cast themselves as the good cop. Many saw [Assad’s visit to Abu Dhabi] as legitimizing the tyrant from Damascus, but the truth is that it was Assad, a key member of the axis of evil (along with Hizballah and Iran), who granted legitimacy to the Abraham Accords—and to the normalization between Israel and the UAE, which just recently hosted President Isaac Herzog.

Thus the Emiratis are trying to foil Iran’s machinations, not through military strikes but by removing the keystone of the structure Tehran is building in the region—Bashar al-Assad. It will be difficult and probably impossible to sever Assad from the Iranians, but it is possible to convince him to try harder, as he has been doing regardless in recent months, to limit Iran’s activities on his soil.

This is also linked to the Jordanian king Abdullah’s planned visit to the Palestinian Authority (PA) later this month, which is meant to ensure the PA does not disrupt the aforementioned efforts and keeps the peace. When the Abraham Accords were signed, Abdullah was acrimonious, but now appears fully on board with the regional stratagem.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Abraham Accords, Bashar al-Assad, Egypt, Iran, Middle East, United Arab Emirates

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy