ABU DHABI // Tensions between the UAE and Iran escalated on Thursday after the Iranian charge d’affaires was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Dr Abdulrahim Al Awadi, the ministry’s assistant minister for legal affairs, handed him a note of protest on “Iran’s illegal provision of weapons to the coup militia against the legitimacy in Yemen”.
“Iran’s move is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions prohibiting this,” said Dr Al Awadi. “It is considered an attack on international legitimacy [and] the rule of Yemen, and fuels the conflict there.”
He said that UN Security Council Resolution No 2216 on Yemen was clear in this respect and that Iranian weapons and unmanned aircraft, which the Arab coalition forces targeted recently, are a clear violation of international resolutions.
Relations between both countries have deteriorated after the UAE recalled its ambassador to Iran last year and cut the number of diplomats stationed there.
The move came after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Tehran following an attack on the Saudi embassy in the capital.
The Saudi-led coalition forces fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen have in the past intercepted a number of boats and ships as they attempted to smuggle weapons to the Iran-backed militias and allied forces loyal to the ousted president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The absence of former US president Barack Obama coupled with president Donald Trump’s determined and assertive administration placed the Islamic Republic in a tough spot, analysts said.
On Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted that Iran had been formally “put on notice” for firing a ballistic missile.
Two days earlier, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, said Iran needed no country’s permission for its defensive capabilities.
Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the UAE’s move was part of a broader effort to de-escalate the conflict in Yemen.
“This can only really happen when Iran starts moving away from its significant military support to rebels there because that is essentially how they are sustaining their insurgency,” he said.
“The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition supporting the recognised government in Yemen, and Iranian support to the rebels has been long known and long criticised for fuelling the internal conflict Yemen has been experiencing the past few years, so this move is very much expected and in line with the UAE and GCC position.”
He said it was “absolutely crucial” that the political fragmentation of Yemen end and the country move towards peace and stability.
“By making the country a battleground for its regional ambitions, Iran is playing a dangerous game which deepens polarisation and mistrust of its motivations,” Mr Khan said.
“It’s vital to move away from destructive ideologies that fuel militancy and conflict and which destroys civility in and between societies.”
Dr Albadr Al Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College, said the move by the UAE was clearly based on incontrovertible evidence.
“The coalition cannot be silent in the face of Iran flouting the UN resolutions,” he said.
The context is very important because it comes after the US putting Iran on notice because of its missile testing, which violated the P5+1 agreement – the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.
The GCC is trying to extend a hand to Tehran as we witnessed in the diplomatic mission carried by Kuwait’s foreign minister to settle the differences between the GCC countries and Iran amicably,” Dr Al Shateri said.