UAE ambassador supports military action against Iran
Quote:Yousef al-Otaiba said that Iran "threatened the peace process and the balance of power" in the Middle East and that the initial "backlash" against an attack would be worth it eventually.
His comments are the most hostile denunciation of Iran to be heard in the Gulf region and reflect growing dissatisfaction in the region with the West's failure to curtail Iran's nuclear programme.
"I think out of every country in the region, the UAE is most vulnerable to Iran," he said. "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 UAE, it's only Iran. So yes, it's very much in our interest that Iran does not gain nuclear technology."
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, which are Sunni, are vehemently opposed to the growing influence of Iran's Shia Islamic Republic.
The UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are all home to a substantial American military presence.
Mr Otaiba was asked during a talk whether he wanted the United States to stop Iran's nuclear programme by force. He replied: "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."
In a follow-up answer, he said the UAE would be prepared to "absorb" the inevitable backlash that would be triggered by "an outside force attacking a Muslim country".
The UAE government, however, immediately issued a statement saying his comments were taken out of context, that it rejected the use of force and that it was committed to a political solution to the crisis.
But it did not specifically disavow other parts of Mr Otaiba's interview.
Iran demanded a retraction of the "foul and crude" comments and said tourism to Dubai, Iran's closest trading partner, might be suspended in retaliation.
"I hope the government of the UAE will correct this viewpoint," said Kazem Jalali, a spokesman for the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.
The UAE government statement said: "These statements came as part of general discussions held on the sidelines of an unofficial gathering and were taken out of their context.
"The UAE totally rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and rather calls for a solution through political means."
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