Aug. 10, 2023

Interview transcript: An Emirati perspective of Iran


To understand the shifts in the Emirati-Iranian relationship, and how they fit into the greater changes in the region and the world, sat down with prominent Emirati academic Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla. A Professor of Political Science from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dr. Abdulla is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Harvard University. The following is a full transcript of the interview.

A writeup of the interview can be read here.


The Iran-UAE relationship has changed a lot over the past decade. The UAE is no longer the Iranian economy's window to the world, and political ties are also very different. How would you describe the current relationship?

Iran and the UAE went through a very tough period over the past 10 years. They were at each other's throat in several places, Yemen being one of them. And, when the sanctions and the notion that you need to use the stick and stand up to Iran came with the [Donald] Trump administration (2017-21), the UAE probably welcomed that. As a result, the economic relationship was profoundly affected. Trade went from 20B USD to something like maybe 11-12B USD a year.

I think the two sides have learned the lesson and found that the time has come to stop the political confrontation. Over the past two years, the UAE has reached out to Iran. [National Security Advisor Sheikh] Tahnoon [bin Zayed Al Nahyan] has gone to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran, and we have completely reversed the slide into rivalries. There are a lot of conversations going on between the two countries, trade is back to almost where it was, and the plan is to head into...

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