Critics of the Obama administration’s approach to the ISIL conflict and to nuclear negotiations with Iran have frequently emphasized that giving Iran too long a leash would surely alienating the US’s existing allies in the region, most of which are staunch adversaries of Tehran. This is certainly the case with the UAE, which, apart from being an Arab country close to Saudi Arabia, is also involved in a long-standing territory dispute with Iran over three Persian Gulf islands.
But if this conflict in any way motivated the UAE’s decision to exit the coalition, it is somewhat ironic in light of a Reuters report indicating that small firms in the UAE have been nearly constant contributors to Iran’s sophisticated sanctions-evasion measures. Although the behavior of such small firms does not reflect any official policy, one trading source was quoted by Reuters as saying that “everybody knows about” the fact that Iranian oil is still flowing in the UAE in spite of ostensible restrictions associated with international sanctions.
In this way, Western powers are apparently turning a blind eye to Iranian hegemony out of a sense of convenience while Middle Eastern powers are turning a blind eye to Iranian economic cheating for the same basic reason. The two trends may mutually reinforce each other, giving Iran greater leverage in each domain.