The Gulf Problem with Iran

Posted in Iran | 06-Feb-07 | Author: Hichem Karoui

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Some news reports affirm that the Western crisis with Iran sweeps over the entire Gulf region and causes fears that can be well understood. And though the Gulf officials try not to mention Iran in their statements and moves, it cannot be said that Mr Ahmadinejad’s regime has faith in them.

In fact, those Iranians who strongly believe that their revolution is valid for every time and place still have influence on Tehran’s policies despite the lapse of time and the radical changes brought by the US intervention in Iraq. But Tehran, with its eyes avidly open on Iraq, may not have forgotten so quickly that the Gulf States stood on the side of late Saddam Hussein at the peak of the Iraq-Iran war. Indeed, the Iranians’ gloating over the death of Saddam showed that they have not forgotten what had happened.

Today, they may have new demands from their Gulf neighbours. And if they get the desired atomic weapon, they will become the strongest force in the region. Then, it has to be worked out how the rest of the Gulf people – being rich but powerless – will feel.

The 27th annual meeting of the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) in Riyadh coincided with the conclusion of the Gulf Dialogue at Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Both meetings focused on four main issues: the deterioration of the situation in Iraq and the fuzziness of the American role; the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the ongoing Lebanese crisis and its prospective impact on the region; and lastly the aspirations of the Iranian domination.

When all these issues are taken together, they are – as commentator Geoffrey Camp notes – susceptible of triggering a large wave of violence affecting the whole region, including Turkey.

We note, with Camp, the predominance of the subject of Iran’s expanding power on the agenda of the above mentioned meetings despite the caution surrounding it. Though Riyadh Summit called for keeping the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction, the bigger security preoccupation that the Summit did not explicitly mention was Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Manama meeting discussed similar topics, but it mainly dealt with the possible regional repercussions of the Iraqi crisis, in addition to discussing the envisaged Iranian regional role. The Iranian delegation argued that the ongoing US military action in Iraq and the Gulf was the main cause behind the security instability in the region. But this talk is not new, for Iran has been reiterating it for years, and it is – as the Arabs of the Gulf know – partly an implicit accusation for them for facilitating the mission of the Americans.

This, in fact, is a part of the Gulf’s problem; there is no one method of viewing the relationship with the United States. It is the type of relations that has caused crisis after crisis.

Hichem Karoui is WSN Editor France.

Translated from Arabic by Al Arab staff (London).