Iranian leaders have roundly condemned the U.S.-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic relations, which was announced on August 13. President Hassan Rouhani called it a “clear betrayal of the Palestinian people, the cause of al Quds (Jerusalem) and Muslims.”
The deal, called the Abraham Accord, marked a shift in alignments that have defined the Middle East for decades. The UAE has become the third Arab country to recognize Israel, preceded by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The deal includes opening embassies, expanding trade, exchanging technology, establishing direct flights, promoting tourism and cooperating on energy, security and intelligence.
The breakthrough followed more than two decades of covert engagement between Israel and the UAE, a small oil-rich nation that has long supported the Palestinians. Israel had unofficially deepened ties with the UAE and a few other Gulf states largely due to common concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile arsenal and proxies.
On August 15, President Rouhani rebuked Emirati leaders. They “should know that if they think they can get closer to the enemies of Islam and Iran, they can buy security for themselves, they have gone in the wrong direction.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) appeared to threaten the UAE. The agreement “will spell a dangerous future for those residing in glass palaces in the UAE,” it warned in a statement on August 15.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Abu Dhabi’s move was “shameful” and intended to help President Donald Trump win a second term in office. Zarif also reiterated Tehran’s support for the Palestinian cause in calls with Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders.
In contrast, many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were silent on the deal. Bahrain, Egypt and Oman welcomed the agreement. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – criticized Iran for threatening the UAE. “Iran must adhere to the U.N. Charter and refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations,” GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf said in a statement on August 17.
HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE FM and HE Gabi Ashkenazi, Israeli FM, today inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel, and exchanged greetings following the historic Peace Accord signed by the two countries. pic.twitter.com/3DC5tLV8J0— هند مانع العتيبة Hend Al Otaiba (@hend_mana) August 16, 2020
Israel and the Gulf states began to build public relations in the mid-1990s after the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the Palestinians. Israel opened business offices in Qatar and Oman in 1996. They were shuttered in 2000 and 2001 amid the second Palestinian intifada, but outreach between the Jewish state and the Arab Gulf states quietly continued. In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli leader to visit Oman in 22 years. It was one of the last diplomatic initiatives of Sultan Qaboos before he passed away in January 2020. The following are Iranian reactions to the UAE-Israel deal.
Iran on the UAE-Israel Deal
President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting of the national coronavirus taskforce on August 15: “The rulers of the UAE should know that if they think they can get closer to the enemies of Islam and Iran, they can buy security for themselves, they have gone in the wrong direction.”
"Saddam Hussein once asked Iran to remain silent so that it could invade Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and occupy these countries, but Iran did not remain silent in this matter and did not give them the green light and was the first country that condemned the aggression and helped the displaced people of Kuwait.”
"They [the UAE] better be mindful. They have committed a huge mistake, a treacherous act.”
“We warn them against giving Israel a foothold in the region, then they will be treated differently.”
“They thought that if they approach the Zionist regime, their security and economy would be ensured, while this is wrong and 100 percent condemned, and it is a clear betrayal to the Palestinian people, the cause of al Quds (Jerusalem) and Muslims.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on August 14: “The Islamic Republic of Iran considers Abu Dhabi’s shameful move to normalize relations with the fake, illegitimate and anti-humane Zionist regime as a dangerous measure, warns against any interference by the Zionist regime in the Persian Gulf region’s equations, and declares that the Emirati government and the other governments siding with it must accept responsibility for all the consequences of this move.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Al Mayadeen TV on August 15: “It’s shameful what Abu Dhabi did ... They don’t see the Zionist regime as an enemy, but an ally and what’s happening now is to help Trump in the elections.”
Foreign Minister Zarif to Ziad al Nakhala, the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, on August 14: “This treacherous behavior will increase the hatred of the people of the region and Palestine against these policies.”
“We are confident that this move, which is an act of betrayal, will have no bearing on the resistance of Palestinian people and the movement of the resistance front, and is sure to fuel regional nations and Palestinian people’s hatred of such policies against the cause of Palestine.”
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in a statement on August 15: “The United States and the regional and trans-regional supporters of the infamous Abu Dhabi-Tel Aviv agreement know that this heinous act will not serve the interests of the Zionist regime and, contrary to their expectations, it will shatter their dream of a new Middle East and spell a dangerous future for those residing in glass palaces in the UAE.”
"This treacherous act has multiple goals, including legitimizing the fake Zionist regime, weakening the Palestinian resistance front, consigning the issue of Jerusalem Al-Quds and Palestine to oblivion, paving the way for the implementation of the so-called deal of century and the new Middle East project and creating conditions for the Arab world to engage with the occupying regime.”
"The United States as well as regional and trans-regional supporters of the infamous Abu Dhabi-Tel Aviv agreement know that this heinous act will not serve the interests of the Zionist regime, and contrary to their expectations, it will spell a dangerous future for them.”
Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Baqeri on August 16: “Today at a time when all freedom-seekers around the world hate and distance themselves from establishing a relationship and friendship with the Zionist regime [of Israel], one of the neighbors of the Islamic Republic of Iran has brazenly announced that it has established relations with this child-killing regime, which is regrettable.”
“The Zionist regime is struggling for its survival and, showing disregard for Islamic norms and those of Judaism, and is bold enough to commit whatever act of tyranny and oppression in the Muslim world and even against its own people and neighbors.”
“Definitely, the Iranian nation’s approach toward this neighboring country will change fundamentally, and the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran will take other calculations into account when it comes to this country.”
“Should something happen in the Persian Gulf region and the security of the Islamic Republic of Iran be harmed, even slightly, we will hold the UAE accountable for that and we will not tolerate that.”
“We recommend the UAE rethink its decision before it is too late and not keep moving on a path which is to the detriment of the region and its own country.”
Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf in an address to lawmakers on August 16: “This deal and compromise is a blatant betrayal of human values, Islamic teachings of the Muslim community and the cause of Palestine. Today, defending Palestine and fighting the Zionist regime [of Israel] is a clear criterion for telling justice-seekers around the world from hypocrites and criminals,”
“The overt standoff between good and evil, hypocrites and Muslims, friends and foes of the criminal Zionist regime will indubitably further strengthen the resistance front on the path to liberating holy Quds.”
“Those who strike up a friendship with the Zionist regime [of Israel] are seen by the entire Muslim community as a traitor, criminal and accomplice to all wicked actions done by the evil Zionist regime in the past, present and future.”