Dubai Calls for End to Iran Sanctions, Says no Nuclear Threat

(By Juan Cole)

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum of Dubai has called in a BBC interview for an end to economic sanctions on Iran if the civilian character of their nuclear enrichment program can be proved. He pointed out that the sanctions also inflict economic pain on the United Arab Emirates, a major financial center attempting to recover from the 2008 global crash.

The Iranian leader replied, he said, “how many Palestinians would I kill?” in a hypothetical nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel. Moreover, he said, the US and the Europeans would nuke Iranian cities in reprisal attacks.

Sheikh al-Maktoum said he asked former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the possibility of an Iranian atomic bomb. The Iranian leader replied, he said, “how many Palestinians would I kill?” in a hypothetical nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel. Moreover, he said, the US and the Europeans would nuke Iranian cities in reprisal attacks.

The views of Ahmadinejad reported by Sheikh Maktoum are consistent with his public pronouncements, as well. Contrary to what American politicians and even press organs have frequently alleged, no Iranian leader has said that Iran wants nuclear weapons and all have disavowed them. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and religious guide, has repeatedly affirmed that making, stockpiling and using nuclear weapons is forbidden in Islamic law because WMDs indiscriminately kill large numbers of non-combatants. In the medieval Islamic law of just war, fighters must avoid killing women, children and male non-combatants.

Ahmadinejad’s successor as president, Hassan Rouhani, is even more of a nuclear dove, and his agreement to reduce Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to 19.75%, initially developed to fuel its medical reactor for isotopes useful in combating cancer, is a good indication of his lack of interest in weaponizing the enrichment program.

The Iranian allegation to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum that nuclear weapons are useless as offensive weapons is correct, and this principle is recognized in Security Studies.

Sheikh Mohammed’s eagerness to see sanctions lifted is of course somewhat self-interested. Dubai banks have been accused of money laundering of Iranian funds, and very much would like to serve as a banking interface between Iran and the international community. Billions of dollars would be at stake in the short run, and trillions in the long run.

Here is the BBC interview:

“In a rare interview with the BBC’s Jon Sopel, Dubai’s ruler has called for the lifting of sanctions on Iran, complaining his emirate has also suffered from the embargo. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum also said that Tehran is “telling the truth” about its nuclear plans:”

7 Responses

  1. Contrary to the myth created by some sections of Western media that the Persian Gulf countries back Israel’s opposition to Iranian nuclear deal with the West, practically all those countries have welcomed the Geneva agreement. Oman facilitated the meetings between Iranian and American diplomats. Last month UAE’s foreign minister visited Tehran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif made a successful tour of Persian Gulf states, including Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. Even Saudi Arabia welcomed the Geneva agreement, but Iran and Saudi Arabia have serious differences over Syria where the Saudis back the insurgents and Iran backs President Bashar Asad’s government. Iranian foreign minister visited Beirut last Sunday and talked to the Lebanese president and other officials.

    Last week Iranian foreign minister visited Turkey and the two sides talked about expanding their trade relations. In 2013 the volume of annual trade between the two countries was just short of $15 billion despite the sanctions, in the current year it is estimated to rise to $30 billion, and they aim to raise it further to $50 billion by the end of 2015. Turkish prime minister is due to visit Tehran at the end of January, and Iranian President Rouhani has been invited to visit Turkey within the next few months. So, contrary to the myth, Israel and its backers in Congress are alone in opposing the deal.

    • Just so.

      It’s become quite clear that there are two distinct groups behind the international sanctions regime on Iran: those who were genuinely concerned about nuclear proliferation and worried about a potential conflict with Iran (the Gulf states, Europe, the Obama administration) and those for whom the Iranian nuclear program was merely a pretext for a desired conflict (hot or not) with Iran (Likud, many American conservatives).

      A diplomatic solution, and overall diplomatic thaw, is the Holy Grail for the latter group, but a mortal threat to the agenda of the former.

      • “A diplomatic solution, and overall diplomatic thaw, is the Holy Grail for the latter group, but a mortal threat to the agenda of the former.”

        Unless I have misread your comment, Joe, shouldn’t the two groups be reversed in your above-cited quote?

  2. The interim agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran on initial steps to be taken by Iran regarding its nuclear program and the partial lifting of sanctions, to go into effect January 20, is a good first step. The tough part will be the negotiations for a final agreement that is acceptable to both the P5+1 and Iran.

    Sheik Mohammed al-Maktoum’s confidence that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapons capability notwithstanding, an end to all sanctions against Iran should be contingent upon a final agreement acceptable to both parties. It is interesting that when Sheik Mohammed al-Maktoum asked former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the possibility of an Iranian atomic bomb. The Iranian leader replied, “how many Palestinians would I kill?” in a hypothetical nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel. “Moreover,” he said, “the US and the Europeans would nuke Iranian cities in reprisal attacks.” This is an old rhetorical ruse that suggests there is no nuclear weapons program without actually denying that one exists. President Reagan’s bottom line in negotiating an agreement with the Soviets, “Trust but verify,” applies equally when negotiating an agreement with the Iranians.

  3. Ahmadinejad was correct when he said to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum that using Nuclear weapon does not make sense. He did not say to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum that having the nuclear shield does not make sense also. It is now impossible to place sever sanctions on Israel and compel it to give equality to Palestinians, because Israel has nuclear shield. Israel and Iran are the proofs that we are at the dead end of the governing the world with the system of nation states.

  4. Ahmedinejad was always a prejudicial loon (out of all national priorities, spouting holocaust denial and 9/11 conspiracies as part as your foreign policy?), but outright insane monster (state abuse crimes on cracking down on Green movement withstanding) he was not.

    Abu Dhabi may not be happy with the statement.

    But Dubai has always been more pragmatic and diplomatic in their approach to Iran due to the local Dubai Emirati citizens of Iranian descent, a relatively larger Iranian expat community and their historic cultural and economic ties.

    However, doubt the recent rise of discriminatory visa denial and deportation of new and very old resident Shia expats (apart from the crackdown of suspected Sunni Islamist locals and expats by the Emirati thought police) based on their ‘security assessments’ will cease.

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