UAE Pressuring Israel to Approve Iron Dome Sale

An Iron Dome antimissile system can be seen on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Lebanon. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Israel is under pressure from Abu Dhabi to sell the Arab Gulf state an Israeli-developed aerial defense system for billions of dollars, Israel Hayom reported Sunday.

To date, Israel has refused to sign such a defense agreement.

Officials in Israel are concerned recent talks between the UAE and Iran could result in renewed pressure from Abu Dhabi to execute the deal.

Abu Dhabi had expressed interest in acquiring advanced aerial defense batteries developed by Israel, and the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems in particular, prior to the signing of the Abraham Accords that normalized ties between Israel and Arab states. Additional countries with whom Israel has not signed peace agreements, such as Saudi Arabia, have also expressed interest in acquiring these systems to protect themselves from the Iranian threat.

Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, UAE pressure on the issue grew. Nevertheless, Israel has refused to advance such a deal for several reasons, chief among them the security of Israel: There are certain elements in the UAE government that are in constant contact with Iranian officials, and Israel cannot afford to have such sensitive systems stationed in countries that are freely accessible to Iranian officials at this stage.

Despite Emirati concerns over a possible Iranian attack on their soil and the Iranian nuclear program, Abu Dhabi and Tehran maintain diplomatic and full trade ties. Officials in Israel, the US, and Europe see the UAE as the chief element allowing for the bypassing of sanctions on Iran around the world.

Sanctions on Iran are circumvented not only in the field of trade but also in the banking sector, as senior Iranian officials use the Emirati banking system to bypass sanctions imposed by various states. They do this unhindered by the UAE.

Last month saw Iranian-Emirati ties improve as their respective foreign ministers spoke by telephone in a conversation that resulted in UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed inviting Iran’s senior diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to Abu Dhabi for an official visit. Following the phone call, Amir-Abdollahian said, “Our ties are developing and intensifying.”

Meanwhile, UAE National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran last week, after which he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

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