Eli Lake reports the pointed comments of the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States in Aspen yesterday. According to Lake, the ambassador said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose. “In unusually blunt remarks,” Lake writes, “Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran’s nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country’s quest for nuclear weapons.” Lake continues, quoting the ambassador:
“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr. al-Otaiba said. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”
“If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’ I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.”
Mr. al-Otaiba made his comments in response to a question after a public interview session with the Atlantic magazine at the Aspen Ideas Festival here. They echo those of some Arab diplomats who have said similar things in private to their American counterparts but never this bluntly in public.
Lake’s article refers to the ambassador’s public interview in Aspen conducted by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg himself has more here. Goldberg quotes the ambassador:
“There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran. Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully’s eye, if nobody’s going to come to their support.”
And then there is this: “Countries in the region view the Iran threat very differently, I can only speak for the U.A.E., but talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous. Why should I be led to believe that deterrence or containment will work? Iran doesn’t have a nuclear power now, but we’re unable to contain them and their behavior in the region. What makes me think that once they have a nuclear program, we’re going to be able to be more successful in containing them?”
(I added the close quote at the end where I think it belongs; it’s missing in Goldberg’s post.) Let it be noted that the UAE ambassador’s remarks make more sense than anything that has emanated from the Obama administration on the subject.