In 1981, six Arab Gulf nations declared the foundation of the Cooperation Council with a hope to achieve a number of political, economic, social and security-related objectives, to "build" the human being in the Gulf, and to confront common threats, particularly arrogant Persian policies.
The 28th conference held by the Council in Doha hosted the President of Iran, the country that represents a continuous "headache" to the state members. Some had wished that the guest would not arrive, especially as he spoke of a "Persian Gulf", thus ignoring the Arab identity of the Gulf and its states.
President Ahmedinajad brought no assurances to the Gulf States, nor did he express a change in Iran's attitude and approach. He did not present a single practical solution to avoid the dangers facing the countries of the region, except the raising of more slogans and challenges. He completely ignored his country's nuclear issue and the fact that Iran was still enriching uranium which adds to the existing fears of the Gulf States. He also deliberately ignored the fact that his country has been occupying the three UAE islands since 1971 and the "unacceptable" Iranian intervention in Iraqi and Lebanese affairs, not to mention Iran's meddling in the Palestinian question.
I believe that Nejad got what he wanted at the Doha summit. He came as a spokesman and analyst, stealing the lights, setting the tone to his desire, saying what he wished, and ignored what he was expected to say or the issues on which he was demanded to provide assurances.
He even repeated the "Persian Gulf" terminology, an Iranian complex par excellence, as he considered his nation to be a Gulf State, especially when in the opening session he stated "Our seven nations enjoy enormous capabilities and potentials." Hence, he exceeded his capacity as a guest at the conference to classify his country as one of the GCC states.
Iran suffers several crises in addition to the domestic authoritarian rule. There are issues such as the oppression of some minorities as the case is in the oil-rich Ahwaz where the population, particularly the Arabs, lives below the poverty line, suffering deprivation of access to pure water. In fact, isn't Iran in desperate need to utilize its capabilities to resolve its domestic problems and to bestow prosperity upon its own citizens?
Nejad flaunted his vocal muscles, raising his voice with "regional" slogans, and strayed away from offering assurances to calm the Gulf "anxiety" toward the Iranian nuclear plant. Nor did he offer fair and conciliatory solutions over the occupation of the three islands that belong to the United Arab Emirates.
It is certain that through the agenda that he proposed to the Gulf States, Nejad wished to settle accounts with the United States by replacing Gulf-US relations with Iranian ties. The Iranian President, however, offered nothing to prove the goodwill of his country or the termination of its nuclear ambitions. Instead, he ignored commenting on or discussing the major issues in which Iran is a major player or acts as a threat to the security and stability of the region.
Iran's policies are in fact one of the sources of real danger lurking in the region, and as Nejad mentioned in his statement at the summit, "The security of the (Persian) Gulf nations is intertwined, and any potential security tensions anywhere in the region will affect the other nations." In this, I believe, he was sending an indirect message to the Gulf states, linking the Iranian crisis to the security of the Gulf States in the event of an American strike against Iran.
Undoubtedly, the continuous tensions in the region are among the outcomes of Iranian policies. All what the Arab Gulf States can do is to do whatever it takes to deliver security for their countries and people while Iran abstains from expressing any attitudes to serve the security and stability of the region. In fact, I do not believe that Iran will offer any assurances to its neighbors.
Iran's policy is expansionist, demagogic, and threatening to the interests of the states and nations of the region. This may warrant consideration for the calls upon the Gulf States to adopt the proposal to develop regional missile defensive systems to form an umbrella to protect and defend the region in the face of the Iranian threat that may become a reality upon a military confrontation between Iran and the US.
The propositions that Nejad made at the Doha Summit are nothing but temporary tactics, exposed maneuvers, and evasion of realities. They are worthy as headlines in the press and in the news. I believe that the Iranian attitude will not change as long as the strings to power and decision making in Teheran are held by the grand mullahs, and regardless whether the reformist Khatami protested, the zealous Nejad raised slogans, or Larijani continued to negotiate. The real decision is the hands of others whose greed will not stop at turning South Iran into an Iranian settlement, but will also attempt to "Persianize" the entire Gulf region.
* Published in the London-based DAR AL-HAYAT on December 10, 2007.