The UAE’s export control measures are intended to bolster US backing in the event that the Israel-Gaza conflict escalates.
Because of its ongoing ties to Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have come under fire from both the US and the EU, undermining Western attempts to put pressure on Moscow’s economy in retaliation for its assault on Ukraine. However, given growing concerns that Israel’s war on Gaza could expand throughout the region, some potential changes to Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy could marginally alter the situation.
Early in September, delegates from the US, EU, and UK paid the UAE a visit to express their worries regarding the Gulf nation’s ties to Russia.
To be more precise, these Western countries have attempted to keep the Russians from obtaining dual-use goods like computer chips and electrical parts that could be utilized to bolster the Russian military apparatus.
Washington forewarned the UAE, Oman, and Turkey earlier this year not to circumvent the export restrictions and penalties put in place against Moscow the previous year. The US then placed sanctions on two UAE-based companies, Hulm Al Sahra Electric Devices Trading and Aeromotus Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Trading LLC, in April.
The Treasury Department claims that after the start of the current conflict in Ukraine, Aeromotus shipped a number of drones and robotics technologies to Russian importers.
Hulm Al Sahra was sanctioned by Washington for allegedly transferring machinery, electronics, and optics to Russian enterprises in the second half of 2022, along with chips worth around $190,000 that were from the US and subject to US export controls.
Bloomberg News revealed shortly after the September visit to the UAE by Western diplomats that export licenses for semiconductors and other specific technologies were being considered by Emirati authorities.
These actions have not yet been taken by Abu Dhabi. If such a move were to occur, it would be due to escalating risks of the Israel-Hamas war spreading to other parts of the Middle East, in addition to increasing pressure from the West. Experts say that in such case, the UAE would wish to strengthen its ties with the US, its top security guarantor.
Professor Mark Katz of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government told Al Jazeera that “if the UAE does introduce export licenses, it would be an indicator that it sees the costs of not complying with Western demands as exceeding the benefits of at least some of its trade with Russia.”
“It would also be an indication that the UAE wants American protection against Tehran and does not want to harm its relations with the US,” he said, referring to the potential for a wider Middle East confrontation that may include Iran.
The UAE wants to see as much tranquility as possible in the neighborhood since the COP28 is scheduled to begin later this month.
“Under the influence of the West”
It remains unclear to what extent the introduction of export control permits by the UAE would impede relations between Russia and the Emiratis.
Moscow is probably aware that the UAE was forced to take this action by Western pressure. Furthermore, this action might merely lessen cooperation between the UAE and Russia—not end it. Katz stated that Moscow would like to maintain whatever cooperation it can have with the UAE.
Given Abu Dhabi’s concerns about the Russia-Iran entente and its standing as a major trading hub in the Middle East, it is possible that granting such export licenses may serve to further the country’s objectives.
According to Gordon Gray, a former US ambassador to Tunisia, “introducing the export licenses would help reinforce the idea that the UAE is a reliable place to do business,” as reported by Al Jazeera.
The UAE is highly motivated to sustain positive ties with the US and the EU on both a political and economic level. It also definitely harbors misgivings about the growing military partnership between Iran and Russia and would like to safeguard its national security by prohibiting the transfer of dual-use items to Iran.
Because of Tehran’s sponsorship of non-state actors as well as its involvement with drones and ballistic missiles, officials in the United Arab Emirates are concerned about Moscow’s strengthening ties with Tehran and how they might worsen the security issues in the Middle East.
However, the UAE would face some risks if it followed Western lead in its dealings with Russia.
According to reports, Russia has been purchasing weaponry from Iran, including drones, for its war in Ukraine. Regarding sensitive problems in the Emirati-Iranian relationship, Abu Dhabi believes that this dependence and reduced levels of cooperation with the UAE could lead to Russia leaning more toward Tehran, which could be troublesome for the Emiratis.
He stated that Moscow might not be above putting this out there as a potential tactic to stop the UAE from adhering to more Western sanctions against Russia.
Some analysts, meanwhile, wonder if Abu Dhabi will really implement these export permits in order to gain favor with Washington and other Western capitals.
According to Imad Harb, the head of Research and Analysis at Arab Center Washington, DC, “the UAE and other Gulf states have not been too enthusiastic about harming their relations with Russia,” Al Jazeera.
If the UAE does in fact enforce these restrictions, it will be done so for geopolitical purposes, particularly to provide the impression that it complies with US and EU directives. However, firms and individuals who prioritize their business and commercial interests can find ways to circumvent the limitations even if they are imposed.
Given that both nations can circumvent these restrictions, Harb believes that the implementation of these export permits won’t likely have a significant detrimental impact on Abu Dhabi’s relations with Moscow.
“Iran, which has good relations with Russia and will probably be eager to help Moscow circumvent any sanctions, can always be arranged by the UAE to sell the technology through,”.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA