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Iran’s president (right) meets with the UAE’s national security adviser. Photo: Iranian Presidency handout via Getty

A rare visit to Iran by UAE national security adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday signaled a shift in relations between the two Gulf adversaries as the Emiratis seek to de-escalate tensions with Tehran.

Why it matters: The visit was part of a broader diplomatic push by the UAE, which has reached out to regional rivals like Turkey, Syria and Qatar in recent months in an attempt to stabilize relations.

Driving the news: The Emirati national security adviser met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Shamkhani, and with President Ebrahim Raisi.

  • Both sides issued public statements about their willingness to improve ties, but very little about the contents of the meetings.
  • Sheikh Tahnoun’s visit to Tehran came several weeks after a phone call between the Emirati foreign minister and his Iranian counterpart.

Zoom out: It also followed a trip to Ankara by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE's de facto ruler, to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

  • Several weeks prior, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed visited Damascus and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The big picture: An Emirati source points to three major reasons for the attempted regional reset.

  • The UAE's involvement in the conflicts in Yemen and Libya caused the country significant financial, diplomatic and reputational damages.
  • The economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Uncertainty about the U.S. role in the region has given the UAE a sense that no one is coming to the rescue. That perception became acute after the Trump administration declined to respond to attacks in 2019 by Iran and its proxies on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and ships near Emirati ports, and it persists to this day.

What’s next: The Emirati source said there's no expectation of a full reconciliation with Iran, Turkey or Qatar, but that the UAE would continue its new policy of talking to everybody in the region to make relations more functional and less adversarial.

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2022 - World

Assad regime officer sentenced to life in prison for Syria war crimes

Yasmen Almashan, a Syrian human rights campaigner, holds a photo of victims of the Assad regime outside a German courthouse. Photo: Bernd Lauter/AFP via Getty Images

A German court has sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to life in prison for crimes against humanity, making him the first person criminally convicted over the Assad regime's torture program.

Why it matters: Anwar Raslan, who fled Syria in 2012, was accused of overseeing a detention center that tortured over 4,000 people during the first year of Syrian unrest that eventually devolved into a devastating, decade-long civil war.

Jan 12, 2022 - World

Ahead of Iran deal decision, White House to "focus the fire on Trump"

Jen Psaki briefs the press as Jake Sullivan looks on. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With the Iran nuclear talks reaching a critical moment, the White House plans to focus much of its public messaging in the coming weeks on attacking former President Donald Trump for leaving the 2015 deal, two sources briefed on the White House plans told me.

Why it matters: The Biden administration thinks it's now just a matter of weeks before the critical decision point: Either a deal will be reached and the U.S. will return to the nuclear deal or talks will break down and the administration will move to put more pressure on Iran, the sources said.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.