Calling on Iran to stop meddling in the Persian Gulf, Saudi-funded Gulf State Cooperation Council [GCC] called on the Persian Nation to stop sponsoring revolts in Syria and other Gulf States. Iran’s fiery soon-to-be-retiring 56-year-old President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared himself the unofficial leader of the Gulf States, despite paralyzing U.N. economic sanctions for Iran’s stubborn pursuit of uranium enrichment. Saudi Arabia isn’t the only Gulf State worried about Iranian nukes, something Tehran denies but the West believes is the real motive behind its uranium enrichment program. Despite funding Hezbollah in Lebanon—a close ally of Syria—Iran backs Syrian rebels, especially Palestinians, seeking to oust 47-year-old Bashar al-Assad—responsible since March 2011 for over 40,000 Syrian civilian deaths. Most Gulf States would like to see al-Assad go.
Oil-rich Gulf states compete with Iran in the Persian Gulf, especially for global oil sales. Banned from selling oil in global markets, Iran can only cleverly disguise, repackage and label its oil for commercial purposes. “The Council express its rejection and condemnation of the continuing Iranian interference in the affairs of the GCC’s status and called on Iran to stop these policies,” said the communiqué. While the GCC deplores the violence in Syria, they don’t want the Iranians muscling their way to control the Gulf. “We ask the international community for serious and swift moves to stop these massacres and these severe attacks,” said GCC Secretary-Gen. Abdulatif al-Zayani. Unlike the GCC, Syria’s main foreign ally is Russia Bahrain accuses Tehran in meddling in its internal affairs, supporting Shiite rebel groups attempting to continue the Arab spring in the Gulf states.
All ruling powers in the Gulf States, except al-Assad’s shrinking Shiite minority in Syria, are Sunni Islam, often not seeing eye-to-eye with their Shiite cousins. “Politically, [there is] lots of meddling in the affairs of GCC states, an environmental threat to our region from the technology used inside nuclear facilities; and of course the looming nuclear program,” said Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Kahalifa. Bahrain worries that Iran’s nuclear ambitions could destabilize the Middle East, where Gulf States could be easily blackmailed. “So the threat level is quite high, but we are ready if faced with circumstances that require action,” acting as if Gulf States would confront Iran. With rebellious Shiite minorities in the Sitra and Sanabis districts, Bahrain wants no part of Iran’s growing influence in the region, especially against Sunni rebels.
Talking tough against Iran, the GCC has no clout to coordinate military activities against Iran. Iran’s grand scheme in the Gulf States involves intimidating more passive Sunni rulers into economic and military concessions. Setting up a common defense fund would be difficult for the GCC, unable to deal with more aggressive Iranian attacks. When Kuwait began slant drilling into Iraqi oil space in 1991, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, starting the first Gulf War. With Saddam six-feet-under and the new Iraqi regime aligned with Iran, Tehran believes it’s one step closer to asserting power in the region. While there’s no love lost between the Gulf Sunnis and Shiites, Iran seeks to dominate large Sunni majorities in the Persian Gulf. Gulf States don’t appreciate when Iran backs Shiite rebels in the region. No GCC-backed military force has the will to confront Iran militarily.
Allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons would completely destabilize the Persian Gulf, leaving the Gulf States at the mercy on Iran. If Iran gets the bomb, the U.S. would be obligated to counter the Iranian threat by giving nuclear arms to Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia. It would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Gulf, threatening the reliable flow of oil in-and-out of the Persian Gulf. While the U.S. “supported the creation of a unified military command that organizes, plans and leads the ground, navy and air forces, the GCC is too weak to defend any Persian Gulf area against superior and more aggressive Iranian military forces. Any provocative Iranian action in the Gulf would have to be challenged by the U.S. or NATO. Whatever the Saudis’ military buildup, it’s not enough to challenge a growing Iranian conventional and nuclear threat, now destabilizing the region.
Coordinating with the GCC, the U.S. must lend its covert military support to contain a growing Iranian conventional and nuclear threat in the Persian Gulf. Having a standing command presence, rather than a functioning one, security analyst Mustafa
Alani saw the GCC as a non-interventionist force. More atomic enrichment activities put Iran into an implacable situation, where Western powers must stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. If Iran were to attack Saudi Arabia or one of the Gulf Emirates, there’s little the U.S. could do short of war to stop Iran’s aggressive overtures. To help assure that growing Iranian nuclear threat stays in check, the U.S. must confront constantly shifting points of Iranian aggression. Whether it’s gun-running or reselling Iranian oil, the U.S. and its allies has its work cut out preventing Iran from blackmailing less ambitious and militarized Gulf States.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.