Due to a technical problem, only a small part of the article I wrote last Sunday about the visit Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made to the Emirati island Abu Musa was published.
In this article, I pointed out the political motives behind this visit to the island which has been occupied by Iran since the withdrawal of British troops in 1971. The UAE has always stressed that this island together with two others, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb, are part of its territory and has called for resolving the standoff through negotiations or the International Court of Justice.
I explained that through this visit Iran meant to flex its muscles like Sharon did when he visited al-Aqsa Mosque in order to consolidate his and the Likud’s power. It was this visit that triggered the second Palestinian uprising (Intifada).
It is no secret that both Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime are mired in internal and external problems, a fact that he highlighted in the speech he gave from the island.
“We need to be strong and patient. The Iranian people have so far proven that they are capable of overcoming challenges,” he said.
The UAE summoned its ambassador to Iran and condemned the visit while accusing Iran of making false statements when expressing its readiness to establish good relations with the UAE and Gulf nations.
These falsities are too clear to require proof. Ahmadinejad is trying to divert the attention from his own problems inside Iran, among which is the remarkable drop in his popularity, through starting an ethnic and sectarian conflict in the region.
Ahmadinejad bluntly stated that countries which try to strip the Persian Gulf of its name have no culture or civilization that can enable them of confronting Iran.
“Those who want to call the Persian Gulf by another name would better reconsider and take another look at the map to know what a great and powerful country they are up against,” he said.
The Iranian president then tried to throw the blame for his country’s economic crisis, and which is a direct result of international sanctions, on Gulf nations.
“Some of those countries make its oil available to tyrants who later use it against other countries. They need to realize that they day will come when this only will be used against them.”
This was a pre-planned visit and its time and place were chosen very carefully. Ahmadinejad wanted to send messages inside and outside through threatening retaliation for the sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic for its nuclear program through which its aims at controlling the region.
He also wanted to divert the attention from the dire economic conditions in Iran and from the constant opposition he has been facing by several factions inside the country including conservatives.
Iranian support for the Syrian regime cannot be overlooked and this visit is seen as an attempt to divert attention from that too. Ahmadinejad’s repeated references to Iran’s power in the Gulf waters cannot be overlooked too.
The question is: Will Iran’s provocative visit constitute a turning point in the UAE-Gulf policies that have always resorted to patience and wisdom in attempting to resolve the islands dispute? Will the UAE start looking for international solutions in order to retrieve the occupied islands?
The writer is head of Media at Al Arabiya. This article was first published in al-Jazirah on April 17, 2012 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid