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Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s diverging regional coronavirus strategy

The United Arab Emirates is showing openness to Iran during the coronavirus crisis, which could point to the UAE’s aim to break loose of the policies of its tradition Saudi ally.
Tonnes of medical equipment and coronavirus testing kits provided bt the World Health Organisation are pictured at the al-Maktum International airport in Dubai on March 2, 2020 as it is prepared to be delivered to Iran with a United Arab Emirates military transport plane. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s declaration on April 6 that its coronavirus coordination with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has further improved both countries’ ties indicates an increasing rift between Abu Dhabi’s traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia, and shows how the UAE seeks to use the regional coronavirus outbreak to increase its own influence. Such contrasting strategies could further alter the Middle East’s future geopolitical power balance.

Throughout March, the UAE shipped multiple batches of medical equipment to Iran, which suffers the region’s worst coronavirus outbreak with over 3,600 reported deaths, along with a worsening humanitarian situation amid ongoing US sanctions. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif and UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan talked on the phone on March 15 to discuss ways to contain the pandemic.

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