A Papal Visit to the United Arab Emirates Bodes Well for the Region, and for Israel

On Sunday, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula when he arrived in Abu Dhabi for an interfaith conference sponsored by the United Arab Emirates’ Muslim Council of Elders. Sohrab Ahmari puts the visit in context:

The invitation to the [pope] solidifies the UAE’s status as the most responsible power in the Persian Gulf region. And it gives testament to the Emirati leadership’s determination to transcend the bloody, cruel fanaticism that has disfigured the House of Islam and brought ruin to Christians and other minorities unfortunate enough to dwell inside it. . . .

A reform vision defines the UAE’s geopolitical posture as well. Threatened by the expansionist Tehran regime, Abu Dhabi (along with Riyadh) has forged a strategic partnership with Jerusalem that is the region’s worst-kept secret. But in the UAE’s case, the ties go beyond “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Since 2010, three Israeli cabinet ministers have visited the UAE to discuss infrastructure, energy, and sports. As Zaki Nusseibeh, a minister of state and adviser to the late Sheikh Zayed, [the Emirates’ founder], told me: “There is no enmity between us and the state of Israel.”

Opinion polling suggests that the UAE leadership’s enlightened attitudes have begun to filter down to the populace. A YouGov survey conducted ahead of the pope’s visit found that Emiratis are much less likely to be concerned if a close relative marries a Christian than their neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be. And while only about a third of Egyptians and Saudis expressed fears about Islamic extremism, more than half of Emiratis did. . . .

[T]rue, the country isn’t any sort of liberal democracy. Virtually all UAE Muslims, for example, hear the same sermon at Friday prayers—one drafted by a government-approved committee charged with countering radicalism. That goes against every liberal instinct in the West’s bones, but if it means fewer Islamic State atrocities here or in our homelands, I’ll take it. The common good isn’t always and everywhere served by our form of government.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Interfaith dialogue, Israel diplomacy, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics & Current Affairs, Pope Francis, United Arab Emirates

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security