Tensions are flaring between Iran and the Arab Gulf states. Relations between both parties have never been as strained as they are now. Communication has broken down and there are no apparent solutions in the offing. The Syrian crisis has weighed on both parties, at all levels. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is furious about Iran’s support to Damascus, and for its part Tehran is enraged by the GCC role in fomenting the crisis in Syria. Evidently, the US missile system in the Gulf was installed to target Iran.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to the Island of Abu Musa — a fact conceded by both Abu Dhabi and Tehran — was an attempt to disturb the “constructive and successful” negotiations taking place in Istanbul. The GCC condemned the Iranian president’s visit, calling it a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates.
Tehran, on the other hand, has demanded that all cards be laid on the table before it will consent to enter into bilateral negotiations with Washington. A positive stance on the issue of Iranian nuclear enrichment is a prerequisite for setting out down the path of negotiations. The West must backtrack on its rejection of Iranian nuclear enrichment should Iran pledge not to develop nuclear weapons. This should be the general framework of the negotiations in Istanbul. These negotiations should pave the way for a truce, and eventually, to a solution to the issue.
The GCC must also take a few steps to reduce the level of discord by refraining from magnifying the issue of the three contested islands by claiming that the issue affects international peace and security. Furthermore, it must not accuse Iran of meddling in the region, as it has done to thwart efforts at settling the Bahraini crisis. Moreover, the GCC ought to refrain from blowing Hezbollah’s activities in the Gulf out of proportion as an excuse to expel the Lebanese from the UAE. In Iraq, the crisis must not be portrayed as one in which Iran supports its Shiite allies against the Sunnis.
The GCC countries are well aware that solving the Iranian nuclear issue is the key to a solution that they don’t want in the first place. The blocking of Kofi Annan’s peace plan in Syria and the push toward militarization are attempts to further separate the Syrian crisis from the outcome of any potential agreement between the West and Iran. Istanbul factors into this strategic outlook as well. Any potential settlement between Iran and the US is considered by Turkey and the GCC to be an obstacle in their struggle against Tehran.
The Gulf politicians are unable to emerge from beneath the US cloak, yet they fail to persuade the US of their plans. They are also unable to directly confront Iran out of fear that the consequences of such a clash might not be to their advantage. The GCC is instead attempting to impede US plans by engaging in minor confrontations which would weaken the US position in the region.
This is a strategy espoused by the hopeless, who, failing to achieve their own goals, stand in the way of others.