Recall that following last month’s historic UAE-Israeli peace deal, which marked the first time in history Israel inked a peace deal to open formal diplomatic relations with an Arab gulf state, Iran angrily reacted by telling UAE it’s “now made itself a target” in response to any future Israeli aggression.
Iran interpreted the White House brokered agreement as yet more bolstering of what was already an increasing Gulf Sunni and Israeli alliance to break the so-called ‘Shia crescent’ – which is largely what regime change efforts targeting Syria’s Assad were all about.
It now appears Tehran is ready to heighten its own pressure campaign on its weaker but wealthier neighbor which sits just across the volatile Strait of Hormuz by pressing Iran’s claim over three small contested islands.
On Monday the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement asserting that the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are an integral part of the Islamic Republic.
Crucially near-future plans to construct an Emirati oil pipeline with Israel starting from the Gulf were revealed, no doubt outraging Tehran that Israel ambitions are now so geographically close.
An Iran FM spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday as quoted in state-run Fars News Agency: “Regardless of the amount of error that one of the neighboring countries commits, we are trying to return it to the right track of regional procedures according to the policy of good neighbors. The UAE has gone in the wrong direction in some areas for years.”
He continued, “Iran does not allow anyone to do anything on its borders and territories with regard to the three islands, and the three islands in the Persian Gulf have certainly been part of Iran, and these allegations do not create any rights for anyone and do not affect the exercise of Iranian sovereignty.”
From there he specially lashed out at encroaching Israeli influence in the Gulf region, given the recent peace deal with the UAE, threatening:
“The Zionist entity is in the gutter and is trying to drown everyone with it, and we hope that the UAE and the current government will not sink with the Zionist entity,” he said.
The three islands at issue are tiny, yet considered strategically very important given they overlook vital oil shipping transit in the Strait of Hormuz.
Both Iran and the UAE claimed sovereignty over them after the British government withdrew from the region in the late 1960s.
In 1971 Iran seized the islands by force upon British withdrawal and the establishment of the UAE after Britain’s administration ending in the Gulf. The Emirates says Iran’s administration of the islands remains illegitimate.