DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A top Emirati official warned a high-powered gathering of U.S. government, military and business leaders on Sunday that Iranian-sponsored terror, while “similar” to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, “has greater potential” for impacting negatively on the region and the world.
At a dinner event here in support of ever-strengthening ties between Washington and Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Ahmad Al Bawardi, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for defense affairs, said his country is proud of the “joint accomplishments” in combating terror and extremism of the two Sunni groups, yet urged closer collaboration in confronting Shiite Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Yemen.
“Over the years, we have collaborated jointly in the war on terror against al-Qaida and ISIS, yet more collaborative work remains to be accomplished in the future to abolish all forms of terror and extremism. I must stress that much work must be done to confront extremist Iranian threats to world peace and security with their surrogates in the region Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen,” Al Bawardi said.
Addressing a combined event of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council and the Aerospace Industries Association, al Bawardi assailed Tehran for “transporting the Islamic revolution” and engaging in “a serious form of nation-sponsored terror… which is similar to al-Qaida and ISIS, but with greater potential for impacting the region.”
“Iran has exceeded all limits… and this has serious repercussions on world peace,” said the senior defense official and member of the UAE Cabinet. He noted that the UAE “is establishing relations with all countries in the world, and in particular with all who share common values and aspirations.”
As for bilateral cooperation, the Emirati official said U.S.-UAE ties “are deeper than ever” and “represent an ideal model of a comprehensive strategic partnership through joint military operations, acquisition of sophisticate weaponry, U.S. logistical support and interoperability among forces.
In her address to the same gathering, Ellen Lord, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, did not address specific geo-political challenges or common threats, focusing instead on the “robust and diverse” bilateral relationship that extends far beyond the defense sector. The UAE, she noted, is America’s largest export market in the region and the seventh fastest growing source of investment in the U.S.
“The UAE is one of the most innovative and open economies in the world. The U.S. has substantial trade and commercial interests in the UAE, which provides employment for more than 12,000 American workers in defense, real estate, transportation, communications and the financial services sectors.
“While the UAE is one of most exciting and fast growing partnerships in region, it is not a new partnership. For decades, we’ve been working and fighting side by side with our Emirati partners in Afghanitsan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.”
As for strategic cooperation, Lord cited a May 2017 defense cooperation agreement between the two countries which will allow for much closer ties between the two defense establishments. “Currently, we’re seeing an acceleration in our ties,” she said.
Just three months into her Pentagon position, the former president and CEO of Textron said DoD’s goal is to “train and equip the UAE Armed Forces in a manner that reflects their increasing role as a provider for regional security and their status as an accomplished armed forces in the region.”
Specifically, said the two countries are working to build “technology security protocols and a more robust export control infrastructure” that will allow Washington to sell increasingly sensitive front-line weaponry to Abu Dhabi. “This institutional development is critical not just for ensuring that advanced US technology we release to our partners remain secure, but it will also benefit the Emiratis as the UAE’s domestic defense industry takes off and becomes a force in the global marketplace,” she said.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.