Iran never misses an opportunity to confirm the superiority with which it perceives the Arabs in general and the Arab Gulf states in particular. At this level, the visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the occupied Emirati Abu Musa Island is one of the facets of that perception.
Ahmadinejad might have planned this visit in the context of the domestic overbidding inside Iran with the conservatives and the hardliners. However, he completely disregarded the fact that the island is the object of a sovereign conflict with another state. Hence, had he enjoyed the minimum level of good intentions, he would have abstained from conducting it, and - prior to that - would have cooperated with the UAE’s proposal to seek a diplomatic solution through negotiations or resort to arbitration.
What is worst is that Tehran – whether via its officials or clerics – intentionally opposed the Emirates’ right to defend what they considered as being a sovereign right to the three occupied Islands, i.e. Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, perceiving the voicing of that right as being an attack against it.
But Iranian arrogance did not stop at this level considering that Ahmadinejad waged a smear campaign particularly targeting the Gulf States, when he assured that his country was the only one in the region with a historical civilization and that the others were ignorant. He thus claimed that Iran was doing the Arab Gulf states and especially the United Arab Emirates a favor by dealing with them commercially and economically, as though had it not been for the Iranian generosity at this level, economy in them would not have flourished. This clearly reveals a racist tendency toward the Arabs.
This racism was accompanied by a rhetoric featuring blatant military threats seen in the statements of the Iranian officials, whether the civilian or military ones. These threats took a serious character surpassing the known propaganda, in light of the realization by the Gulf Cooperation Council states of the extent of the Iranian interference in their internal affairs and the instigation it is carrying out vis-à-vis a faction of their populations, reaching the point of providing arms and training. Indeed, the majority of the Gulf States publicly complained about this policy, thus tackling the Iranian involvement in events extending from Iraq to Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, even reaching Syria and Lebanon throughout the past years.
Still, the challenge imposed by Iran on the Gulf States today is connected to the progress of Iranian-Western relations over the nuclear program and the developments affecting the Syrian crisis.
It is known that the Gulf States, which are concerned about Tehran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, are forced to abide by the international sanctions imposed on Iran. Hence, they are trying to remedy for the deficit at the level of the Iranian oil exports in order to ensure the efficiency of the sanctions. However, Tehran wants the Gulf countries to take sides with its policy, even if through threats, and without offering any serious or convincing guarantees in regard to its nuclear program and its goals.
In the face of this hostility, the Gulf countries have no other choice but to seek ways to protect their sovereignty, including the use of the missile shields, especially since Tehran keeps threatening to launch rockets on the region following tests and maneuvers focusing on the Arab Gulf and its states.
Moreover, Iran wants to force the Gulf countries to change their attitude toward the Syrian crisis and relinquish the demands to see change in Damascus. Consequently, through the provocation of direct crises with them, it is seeking a trade-off in the context of the so-called regional cooperation, which it will certainly insist on having it proceed under its tutelage under the pretext that it is the superpower in the region.
Currently, it seems that the attempts to acquire missile shields and the position toward the Syrian regime are behind the new Iranian escalation, after it caused the deterioration of its relations with Turkey, the powerful Western neighbor, the economic partner and the importer of its energy, when Ankara announced it will host the missile shields and when it stood in the face of the security solution in Syria.
Iran has pushed all the elements encouraging the explosion in the face of the Gulf States, at a time when these states are still trying to find a diplomatic solution to prevent this detonation while reserving the right to defend themselves. But is this enough to prevent any major Iranian adventure in the Gulf in order to uphold its positions of influence in the region and along the Mediterranean Sea after having invested billions of dollars in it throughout the past years?
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in Dar Al Hayat on April 18, 2012