I read the thirty page final statement of the stormy conference [that took place in Aspen, Colorado] during which the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, roused Iranian anger after he was quoted as saying that the benefits from attacking Iran today would outweigh the short-term consequences of this and the threat represented by a nuclear Iran tomorrow.
Iran responded with a barrage of insults, despite the fact that the UAE Foreign Ministry said that the ambassador’s quote was not accurate and had been taken out of context.
So long as this storm is raging, there is nothing wrong with taking a closer look at the situation. Was it inappropriate for somebody in this ambassador’s position to say what he allegedly said? Was he wrong in his political understanding of the situation? More important, after the ambassador said what he said – whether we believe this is accurate or not – is this statement useful or harmful?
The fact is that we have gotten used to the officials and affiliates of the Iranian regime freely expressing their views and opinions, and indeed issuing insulting remarks against the Gulf States with or without provocation, and in fact these officials do not hesitate even to make threats, which is the worst and most dangerous thing that can take place through the media. Just two weeks ago, Iranian officials said that they plan to inspect vessels that are traveling to Arab Gulf States in response to a UN Security Council resolution to inspect vessels making port in Iran, if there are suspicions over its cargo. Iran did not dare threaten to inspect US or European or Russian vessels in the regions, of which there are many, however they did threaten the Gulf, even though they had nothing whatsoever do with this resolution and no Gulf State sits on the Security Council. Prior to this, Iranian officials announced that Iran would attack Gulf States in the event of any Israeli or US attack against them. In such a poisonous climate, it is natural for an Arab politician or diplomat to say that a nuclear Iran represents a threat to us. Speaking from a protocol standpoint, both parties must work together to avoid throwing rotten tomatoes at one another, or allowing everybody to do so.
Politically, what Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba was eloquently quoted as saying is also true. He said that we are in trouble with regards to what Iran is doing in the region today, so just imagine what Tehran will do when it has nuclear capabilities! Indeed imagine Iran’s mentality and behavior after it gains nuclear capabilities and realizes that no country in the world is capable of entering a war with it. Therefore what is truly wrong is the reluctance of our politicians to express their opinions and concerns towards the most dangerous threat that is facing our region in a hundred years, not the opposite!
This answers the second question, for the ambassador’s words, even if they are beyond the bounds of [political] protocol, are politically correct. Therefore imagine for just one moment that Iran has nuclear capabilities; the Iranians will not attack Israel because the Israelis would respond by burying them with a hundred nuclear bombs, wiping them off the map, while still having an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear bombs. Iran will similarly not attack the US, because it is geographically too far away, and Washington would also respond by targeting Iran with a hundred nuclear bombs, while still having a remaining five thousand nuclear warheads in its arsenal. The Iranians may not attack the Gulf States with nuclear weapons, but it would certainly seek to dominate them, and perhaps takeover a number of Gulf States, in the knowledge that no major power in the world will dare to interfere as they are protected by their nuclear arms. Therefore, what’s the problem in a Gulf ambassador saying that attacking Iran today is cheaper than living with a nuclear Iran tomorrow?
Finally, I am not enthusiastic about being drawn into verbal conflict with Iran; however this conflict is present because the Iranians continue to throw rotten tomatoes at us. The ambassador’s words have an educational value, for the majority of people – including many of our intellectuals – only understand one viewpoint in the dispute over a nuclear Iran. Let them listen to another viewpoint this time!