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Israel, UAE and US working together to tackle Iran's 'escalating aggression': Report

In meetings arranged by the US, the countries have gone beyond gestures and are coordinating efforts to counter Iranian threat, Wall Street Journal reports
Brian Hook Iran Action Group
Brian Hook, head of US State Department's Iran Action Group, arranged clandestine meetings between Israel and UAE to cooperate on Iran (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have held secret talks in recent months, arranged by the United States to share military and intelligence information over an increasing Iranian threat, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

US officials told the paper that the talks, which began in the spring, are still in the preliminary stages but appear to have gone beyond symbolic gestures, with the three countries "mapping coordination" on specific issues related to Iran.

Brian Hook, head of the State Department's Iran Action Group, has reportedly organised the meetings.

“The Iran Action Group has been working with several countries to coordinate diplomatic, security and intelligence activities in response to Iran’s escalating aggression,” a senior Trump administration official told the paper.

“These efforts have helped to pre-empt and neutralise multiple Iranian threats including terrorist and cyber operations in third countries, planned attacks against international shipping, and illegal trafficking in arms."

A former US official told the Wall Street Journal that Hook, who heads up the State Department’s Iran Action Group, wants Israel and the United Arab Emirates to help influence other countries in Europe and the Middle East to take a tougher stance on Tehran.

But the former official also said that the UAE has its own diplomatic back channels to Iran which complicates the situation.

Israel only has formal diplomatic relations with two Arab states, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. The UAE does not recognise Israel as a state and the two have no official political or diplomatic ties.

However, in recent months, several Israeli ministers have visited the UAE. In  January, Emirati and Israeli officials reportedly travelled together on a direct flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv. 

In February, a US-brokered conference in Warsaw brought leaders from Gulf monarchies and Israel together with dozens of other countries to rachet up pressure against Iran, and the more recent talks had their genesis there.

Emirati officials declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal; Israeli officials did not respond to a request for comment.