Several Emirati officials and commentators have voiced opposition to military action against Iran after the US president’s UAE speech.
US President George W. Bush, who is on a Middle East tour hoping to rally up Arab support against Iran, attacked Tehran, in a speech he delivered in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The speech drew interesting reactions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The Iranians choose their own government, whether we agree (with their choice) or not. They don’t need what he said,” said Jamal al-Suwaidi the Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, a government-backed think tank which sponsored Bush’s address.
He was referring to parts of the speech where Bush claimed that Iran was ’the world’s leading state sponsor of terror’ and told the Iranian people they deserve a better government.
“It would be very dangerous if Iran develops nuclear weapons. But to hit Iran is something else… Nobody wants it [a US strike on Iran],” al-Suwaidi told AFP after Bush delivered the address.
Mariam al-Hammadee of the UAE’s Federal Environmental Agency said she would have preferred a less confrontational speech. “The region cannot put up with another war … In fact, the world badly needs peace,” she said.
She noted that the UAE has wide-ranging trading links with Iran and hosts a large number of Iranians, who are estimated to number around 400,000 in the oil-rich country.
An official UAE source also told AFP that he did not expect Bush’s remarks to harm ties between Abu Dhabi and Tehran. Bush’s remarks “do not commit the UAE to anything”, he said, requesting anonymity.
“[Iranian President] Ahmadinejad also came here [last May] and spoke,” the source noted, referring to a speech in which he warned that Iran would retaliate strongly for any US attack.
The UAE faces Iran across the Persian Gulf, which means that “the option of the negotiations [to resolve the nuclear row] failing is not an option”, the official added.