Any threat to trade relations between the UAE and Iran has eased following a United States intelligence report on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said Iran halted nuclear weapons development in 2003 and has shown no signs of resuming a weapons programme since then, making fresh sanctions against the country less likely.
Dubai-based business leaders say trade between the two nations will continue to thrive. “The ties that Iranians have with the UAE [trade relations] are unbreakable,” Nasser Hashempour, deputy president of the Dubai-based Iranian Business Council, told Emirates Business 24|7.
Companies registered in Dubai with Iranian partnership are owned 51 per cent locally and evade problems as they are considered UAE national firms, he said.
Ali Pashang, chairman of the Iran Trade Centre in Dubai, agrees that the NIE report will not affect how Iranian businesses are conducted in Dubai. “Business between Iran and the UAE, and other GCC countries, has increased compared with last year and this will not be affected,” he said.
An estimated 10,000 Iranian companies ranging from oil to real estate operate in Dubai and the business community is optimistic about trade relations. However, the Bush administration has not steered from its path of imposing trade restrictions on Iranian companies.
A White House spokesperson said the threat from Iran has not diminished and the US will still be “actively pushing” for a third UN Security Council resolution.
Iranian business leaders maintain that any US-imposed sanctions on Iran would fail to stem the $11 billion (Dh40.4bn) business with the UAE – Iran’s biggest trade partner.
“New financial sanctions unilaterally imposed by the US will push some Iranian traders to intensify operations in the UAE and other countries,” Hossein Asrar Haghighi, deputy vice-president of IBC, said. “If sanctions get tighter, trade between the UAE and Iran will still be on the rise, whether it is direct legal shipment or illegal shipment,” he added.
He said due to “hidden limitations”, new Iranian establishments in the UAE are to some extent restricted.
Haghighi’s comments came as a senior US official met investors and officials in the UAE to discuss “further specifics” regarding Washington’s latest move to impose further curbs on Iran.
According to US Treasury Under-Secretary for International Affairs David McCormick, the talks in Abu Dhabi were intended to “help [UAE officials] better understand the direction of United States policy”.
The UAE is a global gateway for Iran. Exports from the UAE to Iran reached $11bn in 2006, compared to $1.385bn (Dh5.08bn) to the US and $6.7bn (Dh24.6bn) to the United Kingdom.