It may not be a coincidence that a number of hostile statements were issued by official Iranian parties against its gulf neighbors. This is especially true in light of the fact that Iran was eager to keep the Gulf States away from its two-year verbal conflict with the United States. These statements were followed by the Iranian forces’ building new posts in the UAE Island of Abu-Musa. Iran completed the occupation of this island in 1991 shortly after the Kuwait war.
Even though Tehran withdrew its statements and said it was misquoted, they are in line with the new climate, which is characterized by an unprecedented courtship between the government of Ahmadinejad on the one hand and the United States and Israel on the other. President Ahmadinejad praised the United States’ move to open a consular office in Tehran and delivered a speech on television to the Americans, in which he asserted his good intentions and said he is against the possession of nuclear weapons. Afterward, the Iranian assistant foreign minister made a rare statement in which he praised Israel and expressed Iran’s desire to be friendly with it. When some Arab media denounced this stand, the Iranians denied the statement, but only in a language directed specifically to the Arabs.
Of course, we cannot blame Iran for seeking to improve its relations with the West or Israel, since most Arab states have good ties with the West. However, when Iran shifts its battle towards the Gulf States, this makes us concerned about what’s next. If Tehran is looking to stop the fall of oil prices and sabotage the international market, even though Iran will not benefit from such a move because of its limited production and export capabilities, it will not achieve great success because the Gulf States can increase production to calm the market. However, if Iran’s goal is to clash with smaller states, instead of engaging in a direct confrontation with the large US forces in the Gulf, this means a new crisis. Iran holds the view that the United States is not expected to enter a war if small military clashes take place in the Gulf waters without developing into a conflict beyond the region. It seems that this is what prompted the issuance of a warning to Iran at the meeting between the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Mubarak that, by its current actions, Iran will involve Western powers in the crisis.
It is not difficult to understand the behavior of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] in dealing with the Iranian problem over many years. The GCC is convinced that Iran targets it militarily, politically, and security-wise. To face this situation, the GCC strengthened its military capability, with three states building bases and signing military agreements to scare and deter Iran. On the other hand, all GCC states avoided engaging in argument with Iran or provoking it. Also, they refrained from adopting Western stands on all issues.
I do not think that the Iranian leadership wants to engage in a large battle with the Gulf States because it knows that it will face what Saddam faced and because the Gulf is a region that is vital to the world. Also, Iran will not find one single state to support it, no matter what the reasons. Nevertheless, the new tension is serious because it prompts the Gulf States to think that perhaps it is their neutral stand up until now that made the Iranian see them as an easy prey.