ABU DHABI / BAGHDAD-
Tehran’s reading of the phone conversation between its Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, and his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, is just the latest indication of the Islamic Republic’s intent to unleash a dangerous escalation in the region, analysts said.
According to Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA, during the call Amirabdollahian stressed that “the presence of the Zionist regime poses a threat to regional security” in reference to the normalization of relations between Israel and some Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates.
On the same day, a little-known extremist group claimed a drone attack on the United Arab Emirates, raising the possibility that Iran has decided to mobilize its proxy militias from other countries in the region beyond Yemen.
Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq (True Promise Brigades), believed to be merely an alias used by pro-Iran factions operating in Iraq, said they were on Wednesday at dawn four shot down drones on the Gulf state.
The UAE on Wednesday announced the interception and destruction of three “enemy drones” following three earlier drone and missile strikes alleged by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels since January 17.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree “congratulated” Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq on the operation.
“We thank them for this honorable, responsible attitude of solidarity with our dear people against the enemy of the Emirates,” said Saree.
When Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq claimed responsibility for the drone strike, he vowed to “continue to deliver painful blows until the UAE stops interfering in the affairs of countries in the region, primarily Yemen and Iraq.”
“The coming strikes will be more violent and painful,” she threatened.
Experts saw Tehran’s fingerprints in the attack. “If Alwiyat al-Waad al-Haq woke up from hibernation and launched drones into the UAE…then it was probably an Iran-directed, or at least Iran-tolerated, operation,” Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in a Twitter -Contribution.
Gulf affairs experts said Iran is indeed showing that its willingness to engage in dialogue with Gulf countries and regional economic cooperation is just a red herring to ease pressure on Tehran while continuing its earlier hostile agenda towards its Arab Gulf neighbors.
They believe Tehran plans to expand the confrontational area and open a northern front in the showdown by ordering its proxy militias to attack the UAE after Abu Dhabi managed to thwart the Houthi attacks and Iran’s attempts to invade the UAE unsettling, blunting security and damaging the image as a regional and international business location.
They add that Iran may be preparing for its worst-case scenario, with the Houthis suffering severe fresh setbacks at the hands of forces allied with the United Arab Emirates, following previous defeats at Shabwa and Marib. In doing so, however, Tehran risks facing additional pressure as it uses Iraq as a front to further its regional agenda.
The announcement of the “True Promise Brigades” attacks provoked the ire of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Moqtada al-Sadr, the soon-to-be de facto ruler of Iraq. He condemned the attacks not only because they targeted a neighboring Arab state, but also because they undermine his own image as a leader who can control his country’s security situation.
According to experts, Sadr’s violent reaction was slanted against top leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), who lost the elections and are now using domestic and regional violence to influence the political situation in their own country.
In a statement Thursday, Sadr wanted to remove political cover for the attackers and reassure Gulf states that Iraq will not be part of an agenda that threatens their security.
Sadr said that “some lawless terrorists have rushed to drag Iraq into a dangerous regional war by attacking a Gulf country under the pretext of normalization or the Yemen war.”
He stressed that “Iraq needs peace, state authority and non-submission to foreign orders to be a launching pad for attacks on neighboring states and countries in the region. The Iraqi government must take serious and decisive action against the perpetrators.”
The UAE Ministry of Defense said it was “ready to deal with any threats” and was taking “all necessary measures” to protect the country, which values its reputation as a safe haven for business.
On Tuesday, the United States said it would deploy warplanes to support the UAE following the attacks on Abu Dhabi
Observers believe that the repeated attacks on the Gulf states and alignment with the interests of the United States and its allies in the region will have the United States and Israel pull their gloves off when it comes to Iran’s new attempts at peace and undermine the security of the region.