Faisal Al Yafai is an award-winning journalist and essayist and chief columnist at The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. His book on feminism and liberalism in the modern Middle East is forthcoming from I.B. Tauris, London.
From the Gulf metropolis of Dubai, Iran is barely 90 miles across the water, less than the driving distance from New York to Philadelphia. On a clear day, the country’s coastline can be seen from the city’s skyscrapers; at night, diners in the city’s highest restaurant can look out across the Persian Gulf and see lights on the Iranian side. Ties of family, friendship, and business connect Iran with its Arab neighbors, but that proximity also focuses the minds of Arab leaders on the consequences of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon. Even now, Iran is often unnecessarily provocative: At the start of this year, it threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow strip of water between the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is the largest city, and Iran, through which millions of barrels of oil are shipped daily. Iran also continues to occupy three islands that the UAE claims sovereignty over, and Gulf countries fear a nuclear-armed Iran would be even more belligerent.