UAE's foreign policy, much like its
domestic politics, has been defined
largely by border disputes and the
politics of the individual emirates.
Currently the UAE has territorial
disputes with three of its immediate
neighbors: Iran, Oman and Qatar; in
the past, it has clashed with Saudi
Arabia as well.
The most serious such conflict,
however, is the long-standing
dispute with Iran over three Gulf
islands: Abu Musa and the Greater
and Lesser Tunbs. Since 1992, this
dispute has come to define the UAE's
entire relationship with Iran.
Tehran claims that Britain took the
islands from Iran and gave them to
the Arabs in the nineteenth century.
Iran has now built an airstrip,
substantially increased its military
presence (from 700 to 4,000 troops),
and has opened a university.
The UAE has garnered significant
diplomatic support in the region in
protesting these Iranian actions. It
counters that Arabs from the eastern
Gulf littoral have always controlled
the islands, and that Iran has no
claim to either Abu Musa or the
The islands dispute has also caused
serious friction within the UAE.
Abu Dhabi has been careful to
maintain some contact with Iran
because of the large number of
Iranian expatriates in the UAE and
because of Iran's proximity.
Ras al-Khaimah advocate tough
measures against Iran. Dubai, on the
other hand, believes that the
conflict is unnecessary, and does
not want anything to threaten its
profitable trade and close cultural
links with Tehran.
Iran is currently Dubai's largest
re-export market, accounting for
20-30% of Dubai's trade and
providing access to markets in
Afghanistan and Central Asia.
United Arab Emirates and Saudi
Arabia over 'Shaybah' row
dating back to the 1970s. Shaybah
oilfield located in Saudi Arabia’s
vast Rub al-Khali desert. Under the
agreement, Saudi Arabia dropped its
claim to the Buraimi oasis region,
while the UAE relinquished a
25-kilometre-long strip of land
linking it to Qatar and gave up a
large portion of the Shaybah