In January of this year, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the United Arab Emirates' foreign minister signed a so-called 123 Agreement.
The agreement committed the United States to cooperation with the United Arab Emirates in establishing the Arab world's first peaceful nuclear energy program. Now, as the agreement comes up for debate in Congress, opponents and critics of the 123 Agreement are raising proliferation concerns and citing the illegal smuggling of goods into Iran through Dubai, which undercuts U.N. and U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Congress should quickly approve the agreement when it is presented. The U.A.E. is a firm ally of the United States and deserves better treatment than it received in the Dubai Ports World fiasco in 2006. The 123 Agreement must be judged on its merits, not on the basis of accusations or plain prejudice.
While President Obama struggled this month to persuade NATO member nations to pledge more troops for Afghanistan, it was rarely mentioned that one small country contributes the only Arab force there with a full combat mission. That country is the United Arab Emirates: population under 900,000 yet willing since 2003 to commit hundreds of Special Forces troops. This presence of U.A.E. forces was only revealed in 2008, so the U.A.E. government was not doing it for the publicity; it was doing it because it supports the cause.
The Obama administration will find that this is no anomaly: During the past decade, the United Arab Emirates has become an increasingly valuable and reliable friend for the United States, willing to work with us quietly at key international meetings and to use its oil wealth to support many joint goals in the region.