Are we walking behind Trump?
It is an extreme exaggeration to depict agreement with US President Donald Trump’s Iran policy as walking behind a warmonger and posing dangerous risks for Arab countries. Policies change according to circumstances. Trump has chosen to adopt a new policy aimed at stopping Iran’s increasing regional dominance, which threatens all countries. There has been no suggestion of waging war or military confrontations.
But there is talk of a long series of procedures, some of which will be adopted, to sanction Tehran as per Trump’s judgment. He will not need to send battleships to occupy Bandar Abbas port to block the waterway used to arm Houthi rebels, but he could commission his arsenal to monitor navigation activities off Yemeni ports to stop arms trafficking.
US economic sanctions that do not contradict the nuclear deal could be revived. Those sanctions, which were approved by Congress and applied at the start of former President Barack Obama’s term but later lifted by him, proved to be more effective and less risky than any military operation that could be launched against Iran.
These penalties were so effective that Tehran had to negotiate and retreat from its nuclear program for the first time. The most important of these sanctions were the US government’s banning of oil companies from investing or operating in Iran, and prohibiting dollar transactions with it.
So those who criticize any Arab collaboration with Trump against Iran, fearing it could lead to war, can be reassured that such a conflict will not take place, as it is not even an option. However, if Trump decides to launch a broad military operation against Tehran, we will feel worried and will not walk behind him. Every emergent situation will be handled differently.
It is superficial to regard Gulf nations’ harmony with Washington’s new attitude as wrong and risky, as some cultured people argue. Trump is the one drawing closer to Gulf countries’ policies, not vice versa.
Tension could, for example, trigger naval confrontations in disputed areas, but there will not be a major war with Iran. After all, there has never been a war between it and the US; neither has even threatened one. All sides are keen to avoid a collision, which both the Iranians and Americans have managed to do for decades.
No party even wants tensions. It is superficial to regard Gulf nations’ harmony with Washington’s new attitude as wrong and risky, as some cultured people argue. Trump is the one drawing closer to Gulf countries’ policies, not vice versa. His administration has decided to return to the point where Obama left when he negotiated with Tehran secretly.
As for critics’ argument that the US is untrustworthy since Obama let down the Gulf states in their faceoff with Iran, it is normal that each country decides its policy as per its interests. If Tehran was serious in abandoning the use of power and intervention, there would not have been a need for partisanship or alliances.
There are some who perceive relations from the perspective of Iran and its allies, so when they make reconciliation, arms or oil deals with the West, they consider it a huge achievement in breaking the siege. However, when Arab countries do the same, they accuse them of subservience and implementing foreign agendas.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.