Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg - Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.

UAE Ambassador on the Challenge of Iran

Jul 6 2010, 6:01 PM ET
I know I'm not blogging today, but what follows isn't blogging, just transcription. I interviewed the ambassador to Washington from the United Arab Emirates, Yousef al-Otaiba, at a lunch program here at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and he was typically bold and straightforward on the challenges facing his country, one of America's key allies in the Arab world. I'll post more as the transcript becomes available (I'm not one of those guys who can do a public interview and take notes on it at the same time, then tweet it), but he did say the U.A.E. would sooner see military action against Iran's nuclear program than see the program succeed. Here is something crucial he said about the price of letting Iran go nuclear:

"There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran. Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully's eye, if nobody's going to come to their support."

And then there is this: "Countries in the region view the Iran threat very differently, I can only speak for the U.A.E., but talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous. Why should I be led to believe that deterrence or containment will work? Iran doesn't have a nuclear power now, but we're unable to contain them and their behavior in the region. What makes me think that once they have a nuclear program, we're going to be able to be more successful in containing them?

UAE's Ambassador Endorses an American Strike on Iran (Cont'd)

Jul 6 2010, 7:06 PM ET
Here's a key exchange between Yousef al-Otaiba, and yours truly, at the Aspen Ideas Festival. I asked him, Do you want the U.S. to stop the Iranian nuclear program by force?

And he answered: "Absolutely, absolutely. 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."

He went on to say, "I am suggesting that I think out of every country in the region, the U.A.E. is most vulnerable to Iran. Our military, who 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."

Why the UAE's Position on Iran Is Not Particularly New

Jul 6 2010, 9:09 PM ET
I've been getting a lot of mail about the remarks made by U.A.E. ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba earlier today in a session with me at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The ambassador spoke bluntly about the threat posed to his country by Iran, and he suggested that the idea of Iran going nuclear is worse than the idea of a military strike on Iran to keep it from going nuclear.

Some of those who have written me have expressed surprise at this, but, as much as I'd like to claim a big scoop here, the ambasador's position, though stated more plainly, and publicly, than usual, is the standard position 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. The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years. The Arabs and the Persians have been going at for a thousand. The idea of a group of Persian Shi'ites having possession of a nuclear bomb scares Arab leader like nothing else -- it certainly scares them more than the reality of the Jewish bomb
Jeffrey Goldberg - Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, he has reported from the Middle East and Africa. He also writes the magazine's advice column.

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