Trend News commentator: Iran-Arab reboot

Politics Materials 3 March 2010 11:03 (UTC +04:00)
It is not secret that a clash of interests of Iran and the Sunni Arab countries is the other stumbling block in establishing lasting peace in the volatile Middle East, in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian or Arab-Israeli conflict.
Trend News commentator: Iran-Arab reboot

Ulviyya Sadikhova, Trend Middle East Desk columnist

It is not secret that a clash of interests of Iran and the Sunni Arab countries is the other stumbling block in establishing lasting peace in the volatile Middle East, in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian or Arab-Israeli conflict.

For 30 years after the Iranian Islamic Revolution, pro-American Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf countries, it seems more and more puzzling not so much with the intransigence of Israel, but with Iran's permanent interfere in internal Arab politics: ideological support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, military assistance to the Palestinian Hamas, the Shiite parties in Iraq and Husis in Yemen.

In addition, strengthening the strategic alliance with Syria, Iran argues its neighbors that are able to find common language with the Arab state, most of whose population is Sunni.

The Arab countries reached an impasse. Attempts of Saudi Arabia revered as the cradle of Islam and at the same time manipulating this situation, to eliminate Iranian influence on the Arab politics have failed. Thus the Riyadh has no choice but to begin a dialogue with Shiite Tehran.

In 2010, the monarchy of the Persian Gulf, which by fate will were involved in the U.S. diplomatic row with Tehran on the latter's wishes to develop its nuclear program, stated that they held "too weak dialogue with Iran." As a result, to date there is no intra-Palestinian reconciliation, Hezbollah refuses to hand over their weapons to the Lebanese government, and confrontation of the Shiite insurgents - husis in Yemen resulted in a conflict that has spilled over the border with Saudi Arabia.

These countries have ignored Iran too long and hard, especially after a problem that arise between Iran and the Emirate and after Iran's considering Bahrain as "one of the Iranian provinces."

The main lever for Iran, of course, remains a factor of Shi'ism in the Arab countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which, despite the fact that 16 percent of the population is Shiites, categorically refuses to acknowledge it.

Thus, it is interesting that improving relations with Iran, which is becoming increasingly necessary for the Arab allies of the United States, they want to cover the beginning of a new dialogue on the religious level in the Middle East.

Open compromise to Iran could cost the U.S. credibility that have military bases in Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, but to postpone the dialogue with Iran on the back burner is also disadvantageous. On the one hand - the threat of a new regional war between Iran and the West and Israel, and it seems that Iran, unlike Iraq, will not sit idly in cases of bombing nuclear facilities. The first shot will be on the U.S. military bases in the Gulf. Exasperated and exhausted by economic sanctions, but at the same time, ready to wage war - Iran- this is not beneficial for the Gulf countries, especially Arab allies such as Hezbollah, could help Iran to open a front against Israel's border with Lebanon, and accordingly this will impact Al-Hariri's government, fueled by Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, Iran's neighbors in the Gulf decided to act to avoid the possibility of being involved in a new regional war and military conflict. The Arab countries participation, though hidden, in capture of Iranian terrorist organization Jundullah Head Abdolmalek Rigi, keeps importance.

It is still unknown how the Iranian security forces were able to obtain information that Riga was in Dubai before he wanted to go to the American Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, especially since he was captured outside Iran, but not on its territory, although Tehran insists opposite. In addition, Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting Jundullah, presenting a threat to Iran, which over recent months, faced with sharp internal political crisis.

For Saudi Arabia, it is important to tame the Iranian regime in order to firstly stabilize the situation in Iraq on the backdrop of parliamentary elections, and secondly to make progress in inter-Palestinian reconciliation - between Mahmoud Abbas's administration and Hamas, and thirdly, to prevent a new conflict in Yemen between Shiite rebels and the government and, finally, to strengthen the position of al-Hariri in Lebanon, where still pro-Iranian Hezbollah retains the right to arms against foreign aggression.

Unlike political contacts, Iran and the Persian Gulf states still have good economic agreements, particularly in the oil and gas sector. But although it has a territorial dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands, Emirates is also the third importer of Iranian goods and ranks first in exports of its products to Iran.

Another point why the Sunni countries are more inclined to dialogue with Iran is that the last one takes steps to improve relations with Arab neighbors. Answering the question, "how he, as a Shiite, was be able to perform Friday prayers at a Sunni mosque in Syria, President Ahmadinejad replied that for him Islam is one, and he sees no difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

Earlier, ex-president and head of the Advisory Council Ali Akbar Rafsanjani called on Saudis to create a Sunni-Shiite alliance with Iran to address the differences between Islamic tendencies. Iranian leaders have also appealed to Arab countries to establish joint security force to control the Strait of Hormuz, which is protected by U.S. and French military.

Despite criticism of Riyadh against its nuclear program, Iran is also interested in military cooperation with Saudi Arabia, whose army has the most modern arms.

However, in situations when the Arab countries of the region faced with the stagnation in the peace process in the Middle East, and Israel is increasingly switching to the solution of the Iranian nuclear program with the international community, Saudi Arabia can not act openly in its relations with Tehran. But another thing is the single Islamic religion. The call to begin a dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites and the Iranian president's recognition of "just one Islam" is not nothing rather than a maneuver to find reasons to re-establish Iran-Arab relations.

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