Davos 2018: UAE's Gargash calls for a discussion on extremist financing, blasts Iran

The minister of state for foreign affairs blasted Iran's "transnational sectarianism" and spoke of a need to win the "war on extremism"

Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates capture during the Session: Finding a New Equilibrium in the Middle East at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 24, 2018.
Copyright by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary

The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs has called for a war on extremism and its financing in a reference to policies pursued by Qatar and Iran.

Speaking on a panel entitled Finding a New Equilibrium in the Middle East, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Switzerland, Dr Anwar Gargash said efforts to restore stability in the region needed a wider focus.  “We are winning the war against terrorism, but we need now to win the war against extremism,” he said. “We have all been talking about terrorist financing, we need now to talk about extremist financing, that is essentially the normal evolution of where we need to go”.

He said that what the Middle East required was civic states, rather than sates that are trying to look in the past and find a golden age”

The panel including Dr Gargash, advanced arguments against the spread of Iran’s influence in the region, accusing it of “transnational sectarianism”. The minister of state said recent protests in the country had set “very significant” markers.

He added “clearly the [Iranian] economy is flawed, it tanked, clearly people really want an emphasis on creating opportunity and jobs.


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“The whole idea of not Gaza, not Syria but Iran is what you [Iran] should concentrate on, is a clear message, not from us across the Gulf, but from your own population. Don’t spend 5/6 Billion annually in Syria, don’t spend a billion on Hezbollah,” he said. “Concentrate on creating opportunity.”

But Dr Gargash also claimed it was a moment for Iran to reassess its position.  “Everybody thought that following the earlier green movement, this would cow the Iranian people, and it hasn’t. This has reoccurred… it will reoccur. From the perspective that we see, this is the time for Iran to analyse again what it is doing, for its own stability’s sake.”

“I think it is important, the sort of disturbances that were countrywide and Iran now admits were all internal is an opportunity for them to understand that they have to be a normal country.”

Speaking of the potential for future rapprochement between the UAE and Iran, Dr Gargash added that the circumstance would set the framework for such moves. “The normal thing to do is have a dialogue, because we can’t be neighbours and not talk to each other,” he said. “But you can’t have a dialogue with Iran not being a normal state that respects sovereignty and respects the independence of others states, and choices made by other states, and that goes with this sort of transnational sectarianism”

“I am hoping and I think we will need to look in the next few months at the anger that was seen on Iranian streets is not in vain. An opportunity for Iran to re-calibrate, re-emphasise, prioritise and understand that an aggressive foreign policy in Arab space doesn’t only undermine stability in Arab lands, but it undermines stability in Iran.”

Also speaking on the panel was Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir, who claimed Iran was “trying to restore an empire that was destroyed thousands of years ago”.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Khalifa, was also critical of Iran’s policies in the region. "I’m hesitant to use the word Iran because there is another Iran we know from history".

“They should respect their own revolution and not try to package it for elsewhere."