UAE-Israel Normalization: Saudi Arabia Unlikely to Follow Suit Quickly, Says Scholar  

10:10 - September 01, 2020
News ID: 3472429
TEHRAN (IQNA) – A London-based scholar said it is unlikely that Riyadh will in the near future normalize relations with Tel Aviv, as Abu Dhabi did recently.


“The UAE and Israel have been working together for quite some time, now. The formalization of these ties is important, but not a strategic earthquake. I think it unlikely, for instance, that Saudi Arabia will follow suit quickly, as the country has a different responsibility in the Muslim world due to obvious reasons,” Arshin Adib-Moghaddam told IQNA in an interview.


Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is a professor in global thought and comparative philosophies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Following is the full text of the interview:


IQNA: Some believe that after the UAE’s move to sign a deal for the normalization of relations with Israel, other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf will follow suit. Is that so and what will happen to the Palestinian issue in that case?

Adib-Moghaddam: The UAE and Israel have been working together for quite some time, now. The formalization of these ties is important, but not a strategic earthquake. I think it unlikely, for instance, that Saudi Arabia will follow suit quickly, as the country has a different responsibility in the Muslim world due to obvious reasons. The repercussions of formal relations with Israel in the absence of any concessions about Palestine could be severe. It is rather more likely that the monarchies in Morocco and Oman will find the prospect of formal relations with Tel Aviv attractive, again largely because of their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

The UAE clearly signaled to the Palestinians that the issue of statehood is entirely irrelevant to them. This is yet another break in the chain of pan-Arab and/or so called pan-Islamic solidarity. There is none of this left on the state-level as totalitarian monarchies and dictatorial “republics” are not accountable to society whose preference setting remains pro-Palestinian.

If I’d try to be optimistic for one moment, then one could identify one potential opportunity emanating from the deal: Israel may have to consider the fate of the UAE, next time it decides to bomb Gaza or invade southern Lebanon. I am referring to long-term campaigns – The UAE will be seen to be complicit by association. It remains to be seen if someone like Netanyahu cares about this. But perhaps the new generation of more centrist Israeli leaders may be forced to tread more carefully, or they will risk losing an ally, or provoke civil unrest on its territory. Certainly, the UAE has opened itself up to a range of vulnerabilities because of the deal with Israel. The opportunities are there, too, in terms of trade, technology transfer and intelligence sharing. But Palestine can’t be wished away. History is cyclical, injustices are like a boomerang. This is why today the statues of slave traders and other racist abusers are falling in European capitals even after two hundred or more years. Palestine will remain a topic, too, until a just solution is established. In many ways, the UAE is much more involved in this conundrum, now, exactly because of what I indicated: Next time Palestine is targeted, the UAE will be perceived as being guilty by association. 


IQNA: Where will the relations between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv go after the normalization?

Adib-Moghaddam: The official version of the ties will be less pronounced compared to the unofficial ties which will be much deeper. They will reach into the security and intelligence realm, as the UAE is vulnerable in this regard and expects some support from the Israeli side. Obviously, other realms of cooperation will be in the technology sector as the UAE has accelerated its space program in recent years. There is likely to be more clandestine coordination, even in the military realm, which will be sold neatly packaged with a good dose of marketing and PR symbolism. The terming of this deal as “Abrahamian” is a good example. This public relations drive to present the deal as some “dialogue among civilization” will continue as a disguise for more sinister forms of cooperation in hot spots such as Yemen and Syria.   



UAE-Israel Normalization: Saudi Arabia Unlikely to Follow Suit Quickly, Says Scholar  


IQNA: In August, a US-proposed resolution calling for an extension of Iran’s arms embargo failed. Why did even allied countries like Britain and France refuse to support the US bid?

Adib-Moghaddam: The vote has to be analyzed within the context of an altered world order. This structural shift is characterized by several factors, the emergence of China as a global player, and a newly assertive Russia are two obvious and oft-cited factors. But a third shift is less covered and that is the increasing unease in the European Union about unilateral US foreign policies, in particular under the Trump administration. With reference to this particular case this means that the EU (plus Britain) would not subdue the conviction among decision-makers here that the JCPOA is the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, to US demands and power politics. Above everything, the vote was yet another empirical indicator for the demise of US diplomatic power. 


IQNA: The Trump administration intends to reinstate UN sanctions against Iran based on the nuclear deal. How likely do you think it is to happen?

Adib-Moghaddam: The Trump administration will continue to pursue unilateral policies, including sanctions, as it does not believe in multilateralism and inclusive forms of diplomacy. This is an administration nauseated by a particularly hegemonic interpretation of power politics. Therefore, it is unable to create a wide-ranging diplomatic consensus with reference to anything. Unilateral sanctions remain the last resort.


IQNA: Some believe the Trump administration is seeking a comprehensive agreement with Iran. Could this happen before the US presidential election?

Adib-Moghaddam: I don’t share that belief. A quick perusal of the history of international diplomacy teaches us that agreements can’t be made on an ad-hoc basis. The Trump administration would only do a deal with Iran if the country surrenders its interests and Iran would only do a deal with the Trump administration if Washington would consider them in a positive-sum spirit. Both scenarios are unlikely and there are imply no indications, tactical or strategic, to suggest that there is any kind of rapprochement.


IQNA: If Joe Biden wins the presidential election, will the United States return to the nuclear deal?

Adib-Moghaddam: It is more likely, but it is not certain. History has taught us that the Presidency in the United States is dependent on the balance of forces surrounding the White House. Most of these factors are decisively against Iran.

Obama was a rare moment in history, when a US President stepped over the traditional red lines. But Obama was in many ways unique. Having said that, if Iran votes into office a pragmatic President that positions Iran in a new light, then I see plenty of diplomatic openings.

There is a lot of positive sentiment for the country, a reservoir of smart power that has been largely left untapped. The new President of Iran needs to delve right into that space and there is nothing more effective and morally right then to introduce a better appreciation of governance for the people, exactly in the spirit of the revolution of 1979.

Iran's considerable reservoir of smart cultural power is one of the most undervalued aspects in the history of recent Iranian foreign policy, at least since the Zand dynasty.

Karim Khan Zand (1705- 1779) managed to unite Iran at a time of major historical turmoil exactly because he understood the strength of public policy and the necessity to govern vertically rather than hierarchically. This is why he adopted the title "Representative/Advocate of the people" (Vakil-e Raay'a).

This was also a strategy to narrow the gap between the governed and the state in order to ward off foreign aggression. Karim Khan understood, in short, that national security starts at home and requires the active legitimation and participation of the people. Some of this comes out of the research for my new study "What is Iran?" which will be published by Cambridge University Press at the beginning of the New Year.


Interview by Mohammad Hassan Goodarzi

* Comment: