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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

UAE Diplomat Endorses First Strike to Disarm Iran

U.A.E. diplomat mulls hit on Iran's nukes
Prefers strike to armed foe
By Eli Lake 6:50 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2010

ASPEN, Colo. | The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran's nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose.

In unusually blunt remarks, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran's nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country's quest for nuclear weapons.

"I think it's a cost-benefit analysis," Mr. al-Otaiba said. "I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what."

"If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E."

Mr. al-Otaiba made his comments in response to a question after a public interview session with the Atlantic magazine at the Aspen Ideas Festival here. They echo those of some Arab diplomats who have said similar things in private to their American counterparts but never this bluntly in public.

The remarks surprised many in the audience.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, a former ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told The Washington Times after the session that "I have never heard an Arab government official say that before. He was stunningly candid."

John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the comments reflect the views of many Arab states in the Persian Gulf region that "recognize the threat posed by a nuclear Iran."

"They also know — and worry — that the Obama administration's policies will not stop Iran," he told The Times in a separate interview.

Arab leaders, Mr. Bolton said, regard a pre-emptive strike as "the only alternative."

The U.A.E. ambassador "was thus only speaking the truth from his perspective," Mr. Bolton said.

Patrick Clawson, the director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said of the ambassador's comments: "This is a significant increase in the concern from the United Arab Emirates."

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