U.S. or Israeli military action against Iranian nuclear facilities would be preferable to allowing Tehran to get atomic weapons. That hawkish account comes from an unexpected source - Yousef al-Otaiba - the United Arab Emirates' Ambassador to the United States.
At the Aspen Ideas Festival Tuesday in Colorado, Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent of The Atlantic, asked Otaiba if he wanted the United States to stop the Iranian program by force.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Otaiba replied. "I think we are at risk of an Iranian nuclear program far more than you are at risk. At 7,000 miles away, and with two oceans bordering you, an Iranian nuclear threat does not threaten the continental United States. It may threaten your assets in the region. It will threaten the peace process. It will threaten balance of power. It will threaten everything else, but it will not threaten you."
Otaiba added that "out of every country in the region, the U.A.E. is most vulnerable to Iran. Our military, [which] has existed for the past 40 years, wake up dream, breathe, eat, sleep, the Iranian threat. It's the only conventional military threat our military plans for, trains for, equips for, that's it. There's no other threat. There's no country in the region that is a threat to the U.A.E. It's only Iran. So, yes, it's very much in our interest that Iran does not gain nuclear technology."
Goldberg asked if that would be the case even if the attack came from Israel.
"A military attack on Iran by whomever would be a disaster," Otaiba answered. "But Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a bigger disaster."
Goldberg observed that the ambassador's position, though stated more publicly than usual, is the standard view of many Arab states.
"It is not only Israel that fears the rise of a nuclear Iran; the Arabs, if anything, fear such a development to a greater degree," he wrote. "The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years. The Arabs and the Persians have been going at [it] for a thousand. The idea of a group of Persian Shi'ites having possession of a nuclear bomb scares Arab leaders like nothing else - it certainly scares them more than the reality of the Jewish bomb."
Iranian television reports that the UAE government is walking back Otaiba's statement as "taken out of context." Read the full story here and here.