Published — Saturday 8 December 2012
Last update 8 December 2012 12:12 am
In previous years, the argument was that globalization and the information revolution made the world a global village. The same factors have brought the Gulf countries even closer due to the existence of many common elements among them. For this reason and because of the challenges posed by globalization, the emergence of security and military frameworks to protect these countries is expected.
During the last days of his term, former CIA Director George Tenet said that many thought that the end of the Cold War meant the beginning of an era of peace. But, he said, they did not know that the power of declaring war or posing threats had changed. This power shifted from regular armies to non-regular ones. Here, we can refer to the strategy of missiles, biological germs, explosives and those who work with diabolic mindset. On top of that, some countries thrived by supporting terrorism and realized their objectives.
Arab and the Gulf regions became a battlefield for capitalist and communist ideologists. It was an era full of empty and bankrupt leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. Those leaders never focused on development. They never had any degree of political realism. Khomeini fought Iraq for eight years to avert the failure of the revolution. He wanted to export the revolution under the umbrella of Wilayat Al-Faqih. Saddam, on the other hand, did not want to take Iraq from revolution to civil state. He had no choice but to occupy Kuwait. He misunderstood American Ambassador April Glaspie who might have also tried to trap Saddam. Eight days after his meeting with her, Saddam ordered his army to invade Kuwait. Assad of Syria made the same misjudgment. He thought that the political balance would stay forever. He kept ruling over Lebanon from Damascus and then Rafik Hariri was assassinated. It is only then that Bashar Assad quit Lebanon and left Hezbollah to fill the vacuum.
Recently, Ali Khamenei had a meeting with some military leaders that discussed the Iranian influence in the Middle East. They think that both the United States and Israel have started acknowledging Iran's role and believe that international developments indicate Iran's political, security and strategic superiority, which gives the country the ability to expand its influence in the region.
Because of this, Gulf countries have started thinking of beefing up their joint military capabilities through agreements and understandings. These countries are aware of the perils caused by the Iranian policy in the region. Unfortunately these policies are similar to those pursued by Israel.
In addition to these challenges, one can think of the political link of Iran and Al-Qaeda. This has enabled Iran to control Iraq, to defend the Syrian regime, to support Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Sinai, to back the Houthis, enhance the capabilities of Hezbollah and deal with pirates in Somalia. The Yemeni government accused Iran of supporting the Houthis in order to create a pocket state in Yemen similar to the one run by Hezbollah. It also seeks to threaten the naval trade waterways in Straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb.
In the backdrop of these developments, the defense and security policies of Gulf states are subject to review. First and foremost is the domestic challenge that calls on the Gulf countries to get united. It is a qualitative response to political and economic developments. In addition, the external challenges compelled the Gulf countries to reinforce their defense and intelligence capabilities. Now some even talk about Gulf intelligence agency. Needless to say that the Arab Gulf countries constitute a huge economic player and a stabilizer in the energy market. They play a key role in protecting the global economy from collapse. On the contrary, Iran has been allocating huge amount of its income and resources to destabilize the region in a way that aims to threaten the supply of energy to the rest of the world. The Arab Gulf countries have attached great importance to the issue of defense. They have been building their capabilities over the past 10 years. Moreover, these countries have focused on economic development to serve their people regardless of their sectarian and ethnic backgrounds. In Bahrain the political process accommodates both the Sunnis and the Shiite. Additionally, some heads of Bahraini diplomatic missions are Jews. Also, the elections in Kuwait revealed the presence of the Arab Shiites. This is an indication that the people of the Gulf have not been against participation of a capable person in decision making regardless of his or her sectarian background.
And yet, the source of concern is two-fold: The Iranians interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf countries and its attempt to prove the loyalty of the Arab Shiites to it and to the Wilayat Al-Faqih. This relationship is not acknowledged by the Arab Shiites who live in the Gulf countries in multi-sectarian society. That said, Iran's continuous provocation has led to some incidents by isolated individuals.
Those ambitious to control the resources of the region are many. So are those who want to mess with internal affairs of other countries to destabilize the region. This has been acknowledged by some Arab and Gulf countries. If anything, this will lead to the transition from cooperation to unity. There is awareness that the Gulf countries need to reinforce their ability to defend themselves and their achievements against perils and challenges. Therefore, the security and defense cooperation has a message that focuses on the need to develop common defense system according to certain strategies that aims at creating a joint defense system. Also, this strategy is based on developing the Al-Jazeera shield forces and on the establishment of a Gulf institute for security and defense.
Of course, the Arab Gulf countries have no aggressive designs, as has been the case of other counties who face internal contradictions and insecurity. These countries try to get involved in the regional affairs and to create tension in the region to survive. Tehran, that tries to flex its muscles, is a case in point. Iran failed to understand that the real source of strength of a country lies in its internal unity, prosperity and cooperation.