DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President, yesterday said he does not believe Iran will ultimately develop a nuclear weapon.
Sheikh Mohammed made his comments in an interview on CNN, which also addressed the Arab Spring and the recent imprisonment of five Emiratis, who were later pardoned, for threatening state security.
“Iran is our neighbour,” he told the interviewer, Erin Burnett. “They are Muslim and we’ve lived next to each other for thousands and thousands of years. I don’t believe that Iran will be under the nuclear weapon.”
Burnett had asked Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai, if Iran was a bigger threat than it had been in the past.
He responded: “What can Iran do with a nuclear weapon? For example, will they hit Israel? How many Palestinians will die? You think if Iran hits Israel, do you think their city would be safe? They’d be gone the next day.”
On the Arab Spring, he said: “In 2004, I said, please change or you will be changed … the Arab Spring is the people who’ve waited for a long time. Some governments are serving themselves, not serving their people.”
He said despite the strong showing of conservative Muslim groups in Egypt’s recent elections, he did not fear the country would go the way of Iran, with a religious leader, as the country was protected by a strong army.
“I think Syria is more complicated than Egypt or Libya because they have Iraq behind them, they have Lebanon, they have all that.
“So it is the same as everywhere else. The people want jobs, they want opportunities. And they are asking for it. Unless Bashar [Al Assad] changes and starts making things good for the people, they will carry on like that.”
Sheikh Mohammed said there was no current threat of political unrest in Gulf countries.
“I think this period of time, you know, every hundred years this might happen again, you know?” he said.
“Yes, well, you have to be careful. You don’t know what is happening, you know, here or there. But I think the Gulf states are safe for the time being.”
Sheikh Mohammed also addressed the recent case of five Emirati activists who were imprisoned for charges of threatening state security following posts they made on the internet and then pardoned by Sheikh Khalifa, the President, on National Day, along with 549 other prisoners.
“If you are a criminal, you go to court,” he said. “You know, not everybody is really perfect and we are not perfect. We are doing a lot for our people; we still have more to do.
“So we hope all these five also will become better citizens for their own good and for their people.”
He denied the case was about restricting press freedom.
“You cannot transport your democracy to us,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“We are different. Our democracy comes from the Quran and as long as you don’t step on somebody else, you’re free to do what you like.”
On Burnett’s questions about the country’s lack of democratic government and its system of hereditary rule, he said the tribal governing system still worked and would continue “as long as the people want that”.
“Our tribes are ruling what’s really a mega tribe as they are accepting us to do that. Here, it’s different. Everyone can come to the Ruler and say, why I didn’t get that or that”, even those complaining about problems with other government departments or ministers, he said.
“I’ll get hold of that minister and ask why they didn’t do their job. So transparency is here more.”
Sheikh Mohammed denied the UAE’s generous social-welfare system, free health care, education and system of no taxation were examples of “buying off the people” so they did not demand change as in Egypt or Syria.
He said the provisions were “only the basics”, with people wanting better lives and better jobs, and remained firm that “the Government is working”.
“We are tribes. We must serve our people. We must get education, the universities, hospitals, housing and no tax. The Government gives its wealth to spend on the people.”
Burnett described Sheikh Mohammed as “the man who dreamed up and delivered Dubai to the world” but said it was impossible to ignore the effects of the recession on the emirate, with many of Dubai’s projects stalled or cancelled, and buildings empty.
But the Ruler preferred to highlight Dubai’s achievements despite the crash.
“The American and European crisis is affecting the market but here, we are better than anywhere else,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“We got out of the crisis and are back building again.
“We completed the world’s tallest building [Burj Khalifa], the metro, the Meydan [racecourse], all during the crisis. All the big projects we did not stop.”