By Ehud Eilam
On September 15, 2020, the UAE and Israel signed an agreement that opened the road to cooperation between them. Since then, over the last five months, bilateral trade has reached almost NIS 1 billion. It is a nice start. They can do much more together.
The two countries share similar political, military and economic interests. One of the most important one is joining forces against their common enemies: Iran and its proxies. Iran has been the biggest regional threat to Israel and Arab states such as the UAE. Iran strives to produce a nuclear weapon, and it is getting close. In January 2021, Iran once again breached the 2015 nuclear deal, enriching uranium with a larger number of advanced centrifuges. Iran is getting closer to having a nuclear weapon, which will have severe ramifications not only for Israel and Arab states but also for other states as well, including the leading world power, the United States.
Iran desires to kick the United States out of the Middle East and at least to drastically reduce American influence in the region, which will pave the way for Iran to take over the region. Iran also seeks to destroy Israel because of ideological and strategic reasons. Israel stands in the way of Iran reaching hegemony. Arab states are well aware that without the United States and Israel, the Iranian empire might be created at the expense of the Arabs, let alone if Iran has nuclear weapons. Iran might not actually want to rule the Arabs but Iran certainly is eager to reach hegemony in the region. Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq are already under heavy Iranian influence. Iran’s proxies undermine and jeopardize the security and stability of those states. The UAE is aware it must act before it will be too late.
The UAE is considered to have a relatively strong military, known as “Little Sparta”. Its troops gained combat experience fighting in countries such as Yemen. However, it might not be enough against Iran's military might, which is bigger than that of the UAE. The UAE requires help from the United States and Israel too.
There have been ties between Israel and the UAE for many years now, including at the security level. Yet there was a need to make them public, showing Iran that its foes are forming an alliance against it, and they are not afraid of making it official. Israel and the UAE did not sign a military pact against Iran, yet…but they made a vital step in facing Iran. More Arab states might join this anti-Iranian coalition, which will make it stronger. Iran strives to divide the Arabs and turn them against Israel so the latter and the Arabs have to join together in the fight against Iran.
The relations so far between Israel and the UAE, at the security level, include exchanges of information and arms sales. Those ties could be upgraded although Israel of course will be careful not to provide the UAE with weapons that might end up turned against Israel. The latter might consider assisting the UAE by selling it the Iron Dome system in order to strengthen the UAE's air defense and thus protect it from Iranian missiles. It could be part of the preparation for a possible Israeli strike, aiming to destroy and at least to seriously damage Iran’s nuclear program. In such a case Arab states such as the UAE might assist, indirectly, to Israel or the United States. Iran might retaliate against the UAE by firing missiles. Therefore the UAE has to upgrade its air defense in advance.
Dr. Ehud Eilam has been dealing with and studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the Israeli military and later on he worked for the Israeli Ministry of Defense as a researcher. He has a Ph.D and has published six books in the U.S./U.K. His latest book is Containment in the Middle East (University Press of Nebraska, 2019).