Receive free Middle Eastern politics & society updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Middle Eastern politics & society news every morning.
Trade between Iran and the United Arab Emirates has surged as the Gulf’s commercial capital eased restrictions on business activity between the two neighbours, business people and officials say.
Executives said the UAE has in recent months rolled back limits on corporate registrations and the issuance of visas to companies from Iran, which remains subject to tough US sanctions. Iranian financiers are also exploring how to enhance bilateral trade by creating financial mechanisms to fund legitimate transactions, they added.
Flourishing trade relations between Iran and the UAE, the traditional centre for re-exports into the Islamic republic, forms part of the Gulf state’s pivot towards regional de-escalation and a focus on business. This comes after a decade of muscular interventionism in the wake of the Arab spring uprisings of 2011.
“UAE foreign policy seems to have shifted toward one that is primarily driven by economic statecraft,” said Afshin Molavi, senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in the US, while adding that current and future sanctions on Iran would temper this growth.
UAE diplomatic outreach to Iran since 2019, in response to attacks on international shipping around the Gulf, has been strengthened by the China-brokered breakthrough this year that re-established relations between the Islamic republic and its traditional foe Saudi Arabia. This has helped to ease a decade of cold war-style tensions between the rival Gulf powers.
The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement has raised hopes that ongoing negotiations could extend into a lasting political settlement. The release of US prisoners held in Iran could also presage talks towards a new — perhaps unofficial — agreement, with Iran to barter a reduction