US 'prepared to turn to other options' on Iran, Blinken says

At trilateral meeting between UAE, Israel and the US, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said he will visit Israel soon

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken escalated his rhetoric against Iran on Wednesday, saying Washington is ready to “turn to other options” if Tehran does not change course and come back into to compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord.

His remarks came at a trilateral meeting between the UAE and Israel in Washington during which Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said he would soon be visiting Israel.

Mr Blinken said time is running out for a return to the Iran nuclear deal after months of stalling by Tehran, whose heel-dragging has worsened under its new hard-line government.

“The runway that we have left to [return to the deal] is getting shorter and shorter,” Mr Blinken said.

When asked if a military path was under consideration, Mr Blinken said diplomacy is the preferred course but warned: “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course.”

His comments were echoed by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Other options are going to be on the table if diplomacy fails,” he said. “And by saying other options, I think everybody understands in Israel, in the Emirates and Tehran what is it that we mean.”

Sheikh Abdullah hailed the co-operation with Israel that began following the Abraham Accords that were signed last year.

Asked by The National if he plans to visit Israel following Mr Lapid’s visit to Abu Dhabi last June, the UAE’s top diplomat said such a trip could happen “soon” and that his Israeli counterpart had extended an invitation.

Mr Lapid "was kind enough to invite me to visit Israel and I'm going to visit soon to meet a friend -- but also a partner", Sheikh Abdullah said.

"We need to not only celebrate this relationship, but look at new venues of co-operation," he added, pointing to climate change projects that could leverage Israeli and Emirati technology as one such area.

The Israeli foreign minister responded by saying: “my house is open and my wife is expecting for you to come over for dinner".

But Sheikh Abdullah noted that advancing peace efforts with the Palestinians remains critical.

“The Palestinians are going to be the most important element of the success of peace in the region,” he said, welcoming the recent resumption of meetings between Israeli officials and the Palestinian Authority.

"I'm quite excited to see that in the last few weeks, Israeli ministers are starting to meet with the PA. This is a good start."

On Syria and the US position on Arab countries such as Iraq and Jordan resuming ties with the Assad regime, Mr Blinken told The National that Washington does not support such efforts.

“What we do not intend to do is to express any support for efforts to normalise relations, or rehabilitate Mr Al Assad, or lift a single sanction on Syria or change our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital,” Mr Blinken said.

The secretary of state explained that US policy towards Syria is focused on principles such as encouraging the government to grant humanitarian access to the north, fighting terrorist organisations, insuring non-proliferation standards and sustaining local ceasefires.

On the Yemen conflict, Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE wants a resolution, "but what's dragging us in the situation is the lack of will and commitment on the Houthis' side".

"We are all working very hard among friends to ensure Yemenis have a better life. But at the same time, we have to keep in mind that we don't end up with a situation where we have another Hezbollah threatening the border of Saudi Arabia," he added.

Updated: October 14, 2021, 6:58 AM