Friday, July 24, 2015

The Iranian threat to Arab states - Dr. Edy Cohen



by Dr. Edy Cohen

Leading commentators in the Arab world have strongly condemned the nuclear agreement, which they believe will not drive oil prices down, but will also turn Iran into a nuclear and economic power, which will use its newfound strength to undermine the Gulf states' financial stability, and even threaten their national security.

For the first time in history the Arab states are united, but this time not against Israel but against Iran. The Islamic republic's neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, do not believe the statements made by the White House and several European nations on the nuclear agreement. 

This is not a historic agreement that will inspire stability in the Middle East. On the contrary: A covert war has been being waged for years between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and, if anything, the agreement is expected to increase tension and speed up the nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf, whose nations fear Iran's aspirations to dominate the region. 

Leading commentators in the Arab world have strongly condemned the nuclear agreement, which they believe will not drive oil prices down, but will also turn Iran into a nuclear and economic power, which will use its newfound strength to undermine the Gulf states' financial stability, and even threaten their national security. 

These commentators have leveled harsh criticism at U.S. President Barack Obama, accusing him of taking sides in the Shiite-Sunni war. Obama, they argue, has favored Shiite Iran over the Sunni states for several reasons, primarily Iran's war against the Islamic State group, and America's own narrow economic interests. U.S. arms sales could potentially skyrocket through sales to Iran or its enemies, which will seek to protect themselves from the very nation with which the U.S. signed a deal.

The recent statements by senior White House officials, as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have only corroborated what the Arabs already know: Iran's animosity toward other Gulf states was never considered during the negotiations. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the deal seeks to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons -- not to protect other Arab nations. 

Many Arab commentators believe Obama has sold his Arab allies out as he did Israel, and see the deal as a failure of Arab diplomacy.

Iran has a long history of cruelty and oppression against its Arab neighbors. In 1971, for example, the Islamic republic occupied the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands, as well as Abu Musa island in the eastern Persian Gulf, to which the United Arab Emirates laid claim. Iran's move illustrated the danger it poses to its neighbors, and sovereignty over these three islands remains contested to this day. 

Iran has also repeatedly claimed that Bahrain is a province of the Islamic republic, citing the Shiite majority in this small island country was proof of the legitimacy of its claim. Bahrain, for its part, has accused Iran of subversion.

The Iranian efforts to destabilize other Arab countries via subversion and aiding Shiite groups, and other dissident groups, have considerably aggravated tension in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians are lending logistical, financial and military support, to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, the Shiite groups in Lebanon (including Hezbollah), the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Shiite groups in Iraq. 

Iran sees itself as a regional empire and its strategy aims to substantiate its clout in the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the American withdrawal from Iraq, and Iran's fight against Islamic State, has provided Iran with a rare opportunity to expand its influence over other countries in the region.

Unlike Obama, the Arab nations have long realized that undercutting Iran's nuclear ambitions is their top priority, as Tehran's military, financial, and religious sway over the region spells a strategic threat to their national security.

A post-nuclear-deal Iran would pose a far bigger threat to the moderate Arab states -- a situation that may provide a golden opportunity for Israel and these nations to foster closer relationships. 


Edy Cohen is a research fellow at Bar-Ilan University.

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=13275

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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