Why now is the time to repair Gulf-US relations
The West’s narrative on developments in the Middle East for about the past 15 years, and its deepening military involvement in regional crises, have remained clear, relatively consistent, and sometimes convincing for the region’s peoples.
This narrative is a source of joy for some, especially those who call for driving Western forces and the Western presence out of the region by all possible means. They include Iran, its so-called “Axis of Resistance” alliance and its affiliated militias, and extremist terror groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
US President Joe Biden has embraced the policy of US disengagement from the Middle East, pulling out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, citing the necessity of bringing US forces home and focusing more on China. As to the Europeans, they have constantly repeated the assertion that they will not engage militarily in regional disputes and conflicts.
Now, however, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has suddenly emerged to throw these calculations into chaos.Having closely followed Western positions since day one of the invasion, I have noticed a dramatic change in their positions. Troops have been moved to countries neighboring Ukraine. Sensing the looming danger is the chief motive behind such deployments, especially since Eastern Europe is at the risk of a Russian incursion.
But the interesting thing is that the Europeans and US called on many countries, especially those that export oil and gas, to embrace positions against Russia, and exerted pressure to increase oil and gas production to provide alternatives to Russian energy supplies. The West imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia, and is working to expel Moscow from the international system.
US President Joe Biden has embraced the policy of US disengagement from the Middle East, pulling out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, citing the necessity of bringing US forces home and focusing more on China
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
We in the region understand the hostile Western rhetoric toward Russia, since many — especially those harmed by the Tehran regime’s belligerent behavior for decades — see that Iran poses a threat to regional peace and security.
So the following questions arise: What if Western countries took steps — not as comprehensive as those taken against Russia, but let’s say equivalent to 10 percent of those measures — would Iran have continued its hostile behavior? Would it have succeeded in controlling four Arab capitals? Would the Iranian expansionist project in the region have withstood such steps? Would these non-military measures have prompted Tehran to change its behavior and become a normal country?
It is for our friends in the West to answer these questions at a time when they are sensing a grave danger to their security — something Middle East countries have experienced for decades at the hands of Iran’s hostility and expansionism.
Taking into consideration the long history of relations between the GCC countries and the West, especially the US, and the ups and downs in this relationship, I can say with great confidence that in the past few years relations have departed from their usual nature, and now is the right time to repair them for the benefit of both sides.
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is president of Rasanah, the International Institute for Iranian Studies. Twitter: @mohalsulami