Gulf unity does not target Iran
THOSE who believe that Iran poses a real threat to security and stability of the Gulf region cannot be more wrong. The internal decay and weakness of Iran are in fact rendering it ineffective. Additionally, Iranian leaders understand well that targeting the security of energy and the security of the Gulf societies are red lines that could not be crossed. They also know that messing up in the affairs of the region does not grant Iran an influential role. In fact, this policy can backfire and it undermines rather than boosts Iran’s internal security.
If the Gulf countries seek to stir national and sectarian conflict within Iran, the regime in Tehran will not be able to repress them especially with the mounting national demands of some ethnic groups in Arabstan, Balochistan and Kurdistan. These groups have been waiting to open up to the Arab, Gulf, and perhaps the Islamic regions. All it takes to destabilize Iran is to have either Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya focus their coverage on Iran. Tehran’s weakest point is media because Iran’s crisis is internal. Many intelligence reports and strategic studies confirm that Iran externalizes its crisis to the external world, as it cannot respond to the internal problems.
A unity in the Gulf is not a reflection of an external threat. It is a response to a set of cultural, economic, and social transformations that the Gulf region has experienced collectively. These countries are like-minded countries that have similar traditions, identity, same language and religion. A unity is a response to a range of new modern challenges such as economics and the globalization of communication and media. People in the Gulf move freely and they have the freedom to invest and work anywhere in the Gulf. Added to this the kinship relations are strong among people in the Gulf. The movement of one person from one country to another is just like moving from one city to another within the same state.
This begs the question regarding the fears from Gulf unity. What is new in the inter-Gulf relations? The new thing is that the countries of the GCC have to develop the framework of their relations after almost 30 years of common work. There is a need to develop the GCC into a new structure that can contend with the socio-economic challenges.
All Gulf countries realize that the security and stability of the Gulf can best be realized by reinforcing understanding and common work at all levels. We have noticed the economic, security and political closeness among GCC members. This is a very important development given that the world of today is one of regionalisms and groupings. The Gulf countries have become more aware of the benefit of cooperative relations more than any previous time. Its support for Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait during the Gulf crisis is a statement of the unity among the Gulf countries.
If anything, the union among the Gulf people is a normal step and not a reaction to others. In fact, Shiites living in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait are exactly as the rest of the citizens. Therefore, unity among the Gulf countries should not be seen through the sectarian lens. It is weird for others to project the issue as if the union is to confront Iran. Iran is too weak to pose a threat or provoke a unity in the Gulf.
The problem with Iran is that it tries to employ the sectarian discourse and to look as if it defends the Shiite in the wild world including the Arab-Shiites. This reading has shortcomings. First, the Arab-Shiites have been always pan-Arabists. Second, Shiites Arabs enjoy the same rights and duties as the rest of others. We, as Arab intellectuals, refuse hurting them regardless. Iran, however, controls the Shiite population and dominates their financial resources. That said, the winds of change are about to blow toward Iran’s direction and the latter’s influence would fade away. It remains to be seen however how Iran will handle the changes in Syria and the retreat of Hezbollah after its dependency on Iran became crystal clear recently.
Despite the media and political rhetoric of Iranian leaders, we know the situation properly. People in Iran have lost their confidence in the system. Pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei were torn in broad daylight. We cannot also forget the rigged elections and repressions that emasculate Iran from within. Any observer can spot the scope of tension and concerns on part of the Iranian leadership.
It is hard to avoid the feeling that the Gulf unity is a source of strength and a force that will be respected internationally. While the economic factors play a role, rationalism and political wisdom that have been the hallmark of the Gulf countries’ policy play a prominent role too. These countries realize the importance of energy in the stability and security of other states and societies. These countries took the issue of energy outside the political divide. Put differently, these countries behave responsibly in their foreign relations. And when Iran tried to blackmail the world with its oil resources, the Gulf countries were quick to step in and make up for Iran’s reckless policy.
The problem is that Iran keeps making the same mistake again and again. When the GCC was established, Tehran claimed that it was an anti-Iran step! Worse, it claims that it was established at the behest of the United States. It also criticized the “Greater Satan,” while it ironically worked with the same Satan in both Afghanistan and Iraq. That said, those who think that the Arab-Shiites can be pawns on the chessboard for Iran couldn’t be more mistaken. History tells us about their qualitative presence. Shiites and Sunnis constitute one nation with various interpretations, said Ali Al-Amin, an Arab thinker.