Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

A calm response from UAE to Fujairah attacks

Refusal to apportion blame reflects patient and measured attitude to rising tensions

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that he hoped a new round of talks would lead to stability in Sudan. Willy Lowry / The National 
Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that he hoped a new round of talks would lead to stability in Sudan. Willy Lowry / The National 

Speaking at the Globsec security summit in Bratislava, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash offered a prescription for the region. A month after the sabotage attack on four tankers off the coast of Fujairah – including one Emirati vessel – Dr Gargash said that wisdom, patience and de-escalation are required to avoid a lurch towards war. “The [UN Security Council] understands the sort of dangers that might actually befall energy supplies and maritime trade in the region,” he said, adding that the council must play its part in holding perpetrators accountable. Dr Gargash’s sober and pragmatic stance illustrates the divide between those on both sides of the Gulf.

While the UAE remains committed to a firm approach, which marries calls for calm with assurances that attacks of this kind will not go unchallenged, Iran continues to destabilise the region, particularly Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. To illustrate the gulf between the two, Dr Gargash contrasted Iran’s ballistic missiles programme with UAE plans to send a probe to Mars.

A year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the flawed nuclear deal, and a month after the tanker attack that US national security adviser John Bolton blamed squarely on Iran, Tehran continues to threaten the stability of the region. As General Frank McKenzie, the top commander of US forces in the Middle East, said last week, US redeployments in the Gulf have “caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I’m not sure they are strategically backing down”.

Meanwhile, preliminary findings of an investigation by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway into the Fujairah attack concluded that a “state actor” was likely behind the operation – owing to the sophistication and intelligence capabilities required. “It is a violation of state sovereignty, a threat to global maritime and international security,” said Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN. However, the group stopped short of blaming Tehran, reflecting a measured attitude to such a belligerent antagonist.

The emphasis on facts over innuendo is imperative at this moment of heightened tensions. The UAE has been clear that it does not want war, which will serve no one’s interests. And yet, the nations of the Gulf, who stood in solidarity with one another at last month’s emergency Makkah summit, will not tolerate attacks on their sovereignty, or on the vital shipping routes that traverse the region. This is how the UAE will move forward as the investigation into the Fujairah attacks continues: with patience, consideration and a cool head. A mere glance at the words and deeds of the Iranian regime plainly demonstrate who the forces of regional destabilisation really are.

Updated: June 8, 2019 05:16 PM

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