Iranian government must be disappointed because oil prices have not soared as a result of the successive sanctions slapped by the U.S. and Europe against Tehran. Can you imagine Iran, the OPEC member, is sanctioned and oil prices has not changed much?
In a market which is already nervous due to the deficiency of the Libyan crude since last year, Iran was hoping for an oil price hike that can force its rivals to retreat from the boycott.
Iranians tried its usual tricks, to scare weak markets. They made public threats of closing the Strait of Hormuz, the main passageway for quarter of the world oil exports. Yet prices did not go up. They publicly warned Saudi Arabia -- the world's biggest oil-exporter -- against attempting to fill any expected gap in oil demand when the world stops buying Iranian crude. Even such warnings did not raise the oil prices. Moreover, according to my information, Iranian authorities dared to send their boats, with men armed with machine guns on board, to the waters near the Saudi oil-production areas; but yet prices did not go up!
I believe that even if Iran committed any foolish military action, exceeding the warnings and provocations; there are enough oil-production capabilities to meet the market demands. Even if Tehran closed the Strait of Hormuz, most Saudi oil could be transferred and exported by pipelines to the Red Sea, and Emirati oil to the Arabian Sea. Even if prices go up, it would be for a temporary period that would not last long, Saudis still can pump more.
Iran has no right to be angry at other oil producers. OPEC -- with Iran among its member states -- has agreed on total production quota by which any member can fill the gap when there is one.
The Saudi cabinet did right -- although angering Iran -- when it underscored its stand two weeks ago and stated that boycotting the oil imports from any source is a domestic affair that concerns each country separately. In other words, if the Europeans decide to boycott the Iranian crude, then it is up to them, and that it is their right to seek alternatives from Algeria or the UAE for example. We should not forget that that the oil-exporting countries have faced numerous risks as a result of the unjustified increases in oil prices, similar to what Tehran is trying to do today. Raising oil prices would primarily affect poorer countries. Even big economies such as India and China, which are not part of the dispute, have hastened to seek assurances from the Gulf states over the oil supply. That's exactly the issue addressed by the Saudi cabinet when it stated that it was concerned with "the stability of the international petroleum market, with regards to supply and demand as well as prices."
There might be a war of words, but definitely there is no conspiracy against Iran on the part of the Gulf states, with the aim of imposing a blockade on Tehran. However, there are Iranian attempts to involve the oil-producing countries, especially Gulf states, in its planned game to disrupt the market. This won't be allowed by the Gulf states, whether Iran issues official warnings or send warships to their water shore. Iran should solve its own problems and should bear all the consequences of its decisions.
Tehran decided to escalate over its nuclear program. The western powers decided to confront Iran economically and not through military action. Why would Saudi Arabia, or the rest of the OPEC member states, choose to support Iran on the expense of their economies? Along the past three decades, Iran have dedicated its wealth for one project, namely the military excellence. On the contrary, the six Arab countries facing Tehran, namely the GCC states, have chosen to spend its money on economic development. What we see today, is just the normal outcome of the two choices. Iran wants to make use of its oil in boosting its military and political ambitions. On the other hand, the Gulf Arabs are preoccupied with selling their crude, oil extracts and petrochemicals for social and industrial development.
Similar to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iran has the better natural and human resources than the Gulf states; yet it chose to move on the same path chosen by failed states such as Cuba, North Korea, Assad's Syria and Qaddafi's Libya. Those countries agree on one notion; namely power and foreign confrontation.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 21 and was translated by Abeer Tayel