UAE and Israel expanding “security cooperation”

February 6, 2022 - 21:42

TEHRAN- The Wall Street Journal has reported that Israel and the United Arab Emirates are expanding both their security and intelligence cooperation following an increase in attacks carried out by Yemen’s armed forces against targets in the UAE.

The newspaper says, according to people familiar with the sensitive matter, that a year after Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv signed an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations, the two sides are discussing new ways to "protect the Emirates bordering the Persian Gulf, including the sale of advanced Israeli air defense systems"

According to the newspaper, the UAE's public acceptance of Israeli military and intelligence support poses a conundrum for Abu Dhabi, as the Emirates aspires to "deepen relations with its new partner without antagonizing Tehran."

The report says the UAE has “privately welcomed the Israeli offers of military aid as it tries to counter a string of missile and drone attacks in recent weeks”. 

It remains unclear if an agreement over installing Israeli air defenses in the UAE has been reached or is close. The newspaper also cites its sources as saying “Israel isn’t expected to offer the UAE the crown jewel of its air defenses its Iron Dome system”.

Israeli and Emirati officials have declined to comment.

Cooperation between Israel and the UAE has slowly progressed since the Emirates and the Israeli regime signed a U.S.-backed agreement, the so-called Abraham Accords, in August 2020 to establish official relations for the first time. 

Much of the focus until now has been focused on tourism, business deals, and trade.

The paper cites Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli regime official and current senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, as saying the UAE had previously asked for air-defense support but its requests were turned down.

He says “they asked a few years ago but Israel refused up until now. There is an indication that Bennett’s and Herzog’s visits to the UAE might be the beginning of a change.”

Israel is unlikely to provide the Persian Gulf nation with the Iron Dome system, says Guzansky, but could offer components like a radar system. 

Critics would argue the UAE is acting out of desperation, as Israel’s so-called Iron Dome did not exactly prove effective in neutralizing rockets fired from the besieged Gaza Strip by Hamas in an 11-day war with the regime in May last year. 

The UAE currently uses the U.S.-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system, which is supposedly helping protect against Yemeni ballistic missiles and drones. 

According to a report earlier this month by Breaking Defense, which specializes in armaments, the UAE is seeking the advanced version of the Green Pine radar, part of the Israeli Arrow system that is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, in what could mark the first major arms agreement between Abu Dhabi and the Israeli regime. 

If the sale is approved, the radars will be purchased by the UAE and after a short training session with the Israeli regime in the occupied Palestinian Territories, the Emiratis will operate them themselves. While Israeli companies are said to have sold cyber systems and other military equipment to the UAE in the past, a radar system would represent a significant step forward.

According to Breaking Defense, Israel is preparing for a potential Yemeni attack on targets in the occupied Eilat area, the resort city on the Red Sea, with identified threats including both cruise missiles and long-range drones. 

The Yemeni government has expressed anger over what it says are the presence of Israeli forces on its country’s territory. 

In September last year, Yemen’s ambassador to Iran, Mohammad al-Deilami, cited Israel’s presence in Yemeni territories, especially in a number of strategic islands.

Speaking to the Tehran Times, he said that “there is an Israeli presence, especially in Yemeni territorial waters and some strategic islands, whether on Hanish Island, Mayun Island, or even on Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea”. 

Last Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, during a phone call with his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stressed that "the presence of the Zionist entity in the region is a threat to all countries and the region itself" and called for efforts to be made to prevent any foothold of the regime to prevent crises in West Asia.

Abdollahian also informed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that the continuation of the war in Yemen is not in the interest of any party saying "we believe that the continuation of the war and the spread of clashes and disputes are not in the interest of either party or in the interest of the region”. 

Meanwhile, the U.S., which has its forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, is operating Patriot missile-defense systems that have reportedly also been used to help protect Abu Dhabi during recent attacks. 

Washington is also sending advanced warplanes and an American warship you work to work with the Emirati navy, and reportedly will also help provide the UAE with early-warning intelligence to identify Yemeni launch sites.

The U.S. State Department has approved Washington’s latest raft of proposed weapons sales to West Asia to the tune of $4.21 billion, with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates preliminarily approved for deals, if they are not blocked by the U.S. Congress.

The sales come at a time of heightened tensions in the region as the UAE has seen a series of attacks claimed by Yemeni armed forces in response to Abu Dhabi‘s support for militants fighting government forces in southern Yemen. 

The popular Yemeni Ansarallah movement is spearheading the resistance against a Saudi-led military coalition, of which the UAE is a member, that continues to bomb Yemen on a daily basis damaging the country’s infrastructure. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been regularly targeted by Yemeni missile and drone attacks.

The United States has said it will continue to support the defense capabilities of its allies in the region, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and has emphasized arms sales as one avenue for that support.

However, President Joe Biden announced in February last year that the U.S. was ending support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and all “relevant” arms sales.

Critics and legislators say the Biden administration has failed to live up to its promise and strongly denounced the approval of a $650m sale of air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia in November as undermining that pledge.

According to the Pentagon, the most recently approved sales to Saudi Arabia include 31 communication and navigation terminals at a cost of $23.7 million to upgrade the kingdom’s missile defense system.

The State Department approved the UAE to buy $65m worth of spare parts for its Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK), Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target (PATRIOT), and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems.

It says “this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important regional partner”. 

According to research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, countries in West Asia accounted for nearly half of all American arms exports between 2016 and 2020, with Saudi Arabia topping the list. 

The region was the fastest-growing overall importer of arms during the period.

Critics say pumping weapons to West Asia will not bring peace to the region and while civilians suffer in various war zones, western nations are not only making a lucrative profit but are complicit by dragging the conflicts on with their arms flow.

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