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Breaking news – UAE don’t want Iran to get the bomb 8, February 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in French IR, Iran, Middle East.
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The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum has revealed that the UAE are opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. One might suppose that asking France to set up a military base in Abu Dhabi, facing the Straits of Hormuz and Iran, would be a hint, but still, in international politics, I suppose one can never be too clear.

Al-Siyassa, Kuwait (8.02.08)

Iran complain about France’s colonial outpost in the UAE 3, February 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in French IR, Iran, Western-Muslim Relations.
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Iran has made a formal complaint to the French Ambassador in Tehran about France’s recent announcement that they will soon set up a military base in the UAE. Tehran accuse the French of adopting an ‘unfriendly position’ towards Iran by agreeing to station troops across the Persian Gulf, and – for once – Iran do seen to have a logical case. Indeed, it is somewhat difficult to see what the French are actually getting out of running this base in the UAE. There appear to be few – if any – tangible returns for them. France do have significant historical links with the Emirates so perhaps they are defending their influence there with the acquisition of the base. However, it seems somewhat unlikely that the French would go to the significant trouble of setting up and manning a base in the Persian Gulf just for ‘old time’s sake’. Thus, the French appear to have acquired this base solely as a badge of international prestige, promoting the (erroneous) notion that they are still a ‘world’ power who can influence actors in a contested and crucial corner of the world.

As far as Iran is concerned, having a new foreign and somewhat hostile power (with a significant and brutal colonial history) barely 250km from their mainland is a disturbing prospect. This can surely only reinforce Iran’s feelings of isolation vis-à-vis the Western world. Whilst the analogy of the Cuban Missile Crisis does not fit exactly* to this situation, it is nevertheless somewhat instructive in terms of explaining the reaction of a state to the stationing of an unfriendly military presence close to home soil. To put this another way – how happy would France be if Iran suddenly set up a military base a couple of hundred kilometres from Marseilles under some flimsy pretext, seemingly with the sole aim of pressurising French actions?

Iran’s angry reaction is not only understandable but just. Whilst France would not (I can only imagine) engage in reckless military activities in the Straits, their presence alone in the area is simply one more complicating and pressurising factor that an already potentially combustible region could really do without.

* Whilst France are a nuclear power, surely they will not base their missiles in the UAE base? Thus, one of the key dynamics of the Cuban Missile Crisis is not there, at least until (if) Iran acquire their own weapons. Additionally, the level hostility between France and Iran is significantly lower than it was between America and the USSR/Cuba at the time of the crisis.

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/02/03/45105.html