UAE begins to reconcile with Iran

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A rare visit to Iran on Monday by UAE National Security Adviser Tahanoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan signaled a turnaround in relations between the two Gulf adversaries as the emirate seeks to de-escalate tensions with Tehran.

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why it matters: The visit was part of a broader diplomatic push by the United Arab Emirates, which in recent months has reached out to regional rivals such as Turkey, Syria and Qatar in an effort to stabilize ties.

Running news: The National Security Advisor of the Emirates met with his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani and President Ibrahim Raisi.

  • Both sides issued public statements about their desire to improve relations, but little about the content of the meetings.
  • Sheikh Tehnoun’s visit to Tehran came several weeks after a phone call between the Emirati foreign minister and his Iranian counterpart.
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zoom out: This was followed by a visit to Ankara by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan.

  • Several weeks ago, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed visited Damascus and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

big picture: An Emirati source points to three main reasons for attempting a regional reset.

  • UAE’s involvement in conflicts in Yemen and Libya caused significant financial, diplomatic and reputational damage to the country.
  • The economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Uncertainty about America’s role in the region has given the UAE the impression that no one is coming to the rescue. The notion intensified after the Trump administration declined to respond attacks in 2019 Iran and its proxy on ships near oil facilities and Emirates ports in Saudi Arabia, and this persists to this day.
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What will happen next: The Emirati source said there is no hope of a full reconciliation with Iran, Turkey or Qatar, but that the UAE will continue its new policy of talking to everyone in the region to make relations more functional and less hostile.

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