Iran, the Beast Unchained? Gulf Countries Must Therefore Significantly Develop Their Military Capabilities
08 April 2015
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
In my Op-ed yesterday about the framework nuclear deal between the West and
Iran, I wrote an analysis of this topic's previous chapter and sought to
understand why Iran accepted the agreement—and at what price. But what is
much more important than dwelling on the past is to look at the ''new Iran''
as a regime no longer subjected to the sanctions and constraints which have
restricted its efforts over the past three decades.
I believe that with this deal we are facing an agreement as seismic as the
Camp David accords signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979. The Iran nuclear
agreement is a strategic one and finally turns the page on Iran's struggle
with the West, also marking the end of its continual threats against the
Jewish state, Israel.
This implies an end to the Islamic Republic's struggle with the Israelis.
This is most likely included in the agreement's main conditions, regardless
of what the propaganda machines spin out in Tehran. But if Iran has now
exited its struggle with the West and Israel, it will now have more time to
preoccupy itself with the current Arab–Iranian struggle and the region's
myriad Sunni–Shi'ite sectarian disputes.
What is crucial for us now in the Arab world in general, and the Gulf states
in particular, is to consider our options. So, what options do countries in
close geographical proximity to Iran, like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
neighbors, now have? When attempting to answer this question we must bear in
mind that these countries have lived through decades of tension and have in
the past faced direct military confrontations with Tehran and several
dangerous proxy wars it has engaged in—such as in Lebanon and Bahrain in the
past, and more recently Yemen and Iraq.
I think there are only two options here: reconciliation or confrontation. In
both cases the status quo as we know it will be drastically altered. We are
all aware that Gulf countries have always been ready to reconcile with Iran,
in light of their peace-loving regimes. However, Iran was usually always on
the offensive amid its desires to modify the region according to its own
political and ideological interpretations.
I previously wrote in detail about an important initiative led by former
Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the early 1990s—an initiative
which led to reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and an end to the hostile
propaganda on both sides. The initiative also led to establishing consulates
and allowing both countries' commercial jets to use each other's airspace and
engage in commercial trade. This lasted for a few years, then relations
soured after the Saudis discovered Tehran was engaged in covert subterfuge in
the Kingdom. The situation became even more tense after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
assumed power in 2005.
Iran may now want to transform itself through political channels into a
peaceful country and thus abandon the idea of exporting revolution and
altering the region in its own image—seeing as it is giving up its ambitions
to build a nuclear bomb. But we can't know if this is true unless Gulf
countries try to communicate with the Iranians to understand their
orientations and figure out whether they really are willing to commit to what
serves regional peace and security. This is a difficult idea to imagine
(perhaps somewhat akin to holding faith that one day the lambs and the wolves
will make peace!) But who knows? Iran may want to change and it deserves that
we give it the benefit of the doubt—while also continually testing the
credibility of its claims.
The second option is that Iran wants to compensate for its nuclear
project—which aims to achieve regional superiority—by expanding and
increasing its gains on the ground. We have seen how, despite its peaceful
negotiations with the West, Iran dared to send fighters and arms to directly
engage in internal Arab conflcits for the first time. It fought alongside the
Assad regime in Syria and its forces also currently fight in Iraq and
Yemen—this in addition to its role in the struggle in Lebanon. All this hints
that Tehran has grown more ruthless, and not the opposite.
In both cases, Gulf countries have to reconsider their defensive policies,
which for decades have been based on the Eisenhower Doctrine which is
committed to the security of the Gulf. However, with the Obama administration
currently in power, the US no longer seems pledged to this, despite the US
president maintaining his country remains committed to defending Saudi
This last statement actually doesn't convey much ''commitment'' at all and is
not really clear-cut in any way, allowing Washington to dodge the topic
whenever it wants. The Americans have previously suggested what they then
referred to as a ''missile defense system'' to protect the Gulf from any
Iranian attack, but even this is not enough.
Gulf countries must therefore significantly develop their military
capabilities—especially their air combat capabilities—and establish and
cement their regional alliances. The aim here would be to convince Iran that
its nuclear agreement must be a comprehensive peace deal, and not just one
exclusively linked to Israel and the West.
Al Rashed is the general manager of
Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-
Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a
senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a
US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many
TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.