By Barry Rubin
How sadly ironic. A few years ago, the two previous U.S. presidents were trying to get Gulf Arab states to do more to foster an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and to stand up against Iran. They didn’t respond very much. Now they are ready for the battle and the current U.S. government is at best neutral and at worst on the other side!
In an unprecedented statement, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) has condemned Iran for trying to overthrow them. Tehran has been at it since 1979 but this is the first time that these countries have been so bold.
Why? Because the assault–especially in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia–has never been so blatant and threatening.
Among the terms used in the statement about Iran were:
“flagrant interference,” destabilizing their countries, “deeply worried about continuing Iranian meddling,” “violating the[ir] sovereignty,” “irresponsible,” and “Iran’s interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, in violation of international conventions and rules of good neighbourliness.”
Meanwhile, Iran is threatening Saudi Arabia, which the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee said, “should know it’s better not to play with fire in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf.”
The Saudi government responded that this was an “irresponsible” statement containing “void allegations and blatant offense against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” And, said the Saudi version of parliament, Iran’s position “fuels sectarianism,” a codeword for pitting Shias against Sunni Muslims. Iran must “stop these hostile policies and respect the rules of good neighbourliness … so as to preserve the security and stability in this region which is key for the entire world.”
The GCC’s secretary-general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, the condemned “Iran’s meddling in the internal affairs of GCC countries” that “threatened security and stability in the region.”
Where is U.S. policy in all of this? Nowhere at all. It is not siding with the GCC. At best, the United States is neutral between the two sides. Such a position is a terrible mistake. The new development is that the U.S. government has stopped criticizing Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. But it hasn’t started helping them.
If Washington doesn’t support the GCC against Iran, who will? And the expansion of Iranian influence–on the eve of Tehran getting nuclear weapons–is catastrophic for U.S. interests.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center’s webside is: http://www.gloria-center.org/. His blog is on PajamasMedia: http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/