Why would we in the Gulf stand against Iran’s nuclear deal? We support any agreement ending all forms of confrontation with Iran and the sanctions imposed on it. The problem lies in the details. If it was a good deal, Iranians and Arabs would be happy neighbors. But it is not a good deal.
The Iranian regime is like a monster that was tied to a tree and has finally been set loose in our region. This means we are on the threshold of a new, bloody era. Verbal promises from Washington will not be enough, and Iranian pledges will not reassure us. The countries of the region have only one choice: to expect a worst-case scenario.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. The withdrawal of the West from the conflict with Tehran may be a good incentive for us to reexamine the rules of confrontation. The challenges are substantial: economic, political, security, and military—all interrelated. Without a vital economy, we will not be able to improve other fronts. With the huge void caused by the withdrawal of the West from the conflict with Iran, we need to review our military capabilities according to the new reality.
Before the agreement, we had three decades of international cooperation on controlling Iranian ambitions. There was a ban on military deals, and Iran was besieged and controlled by a large fleet—this is what led the Iranians to wage war via Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Asa’ib Al-Haq in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Syrian and Sudanese regimes.
After the agreement, however, we face one of two possibilities: Tehran will either change its ways, marking a new era of reconciliation, or it will increase its hostile activities, unencumbered by sanctions and Western involvement in the regional conflict.
Tehran does not intend to drop its aims of expanding its regional dominance and destabilizing neighboring countries, taking advantage of the lifting of sanctions, which will facilitate the transfer of funds and the purchase and shipment of arms.
Tehran intends to destabilize the region in order to impose itself on submissive regimes. It is using Hezbollah to control Lebanon. It is behind the political division in Palestine, using Hamas against the Palestinian Authority. Iran is also operating a large network of organizations and militias in Iraq to impose its authority over the country’s institutions. It is behind the Houthi coup in Yemen, where its ally has now occupied most of the country.
Iran is using the Sudanese regime for its own purposes, and is using opposition groups to spread unrest in Bahrain. Tehran is responsible for the Syrian regime’s unprecedented crimes. The list is long.
Washington believes these activities are temporary as Tehran has been using them to reach an agreement and force the lifting of sanctions.
However, we in the Gulf believe it is a fixed, long-term policy. Tehran’s dominance will expand and become more dangerous over time, even without direct conflict with the Gulf states.
The countries of the region face an imposing task when it comes to thwarting Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere. They should deploy all possible efforts to push Tehran toward genuine reconciliation, and not settle for Iran’s current maneuvering with the West.
However, managing the conflict will not be successful without improving economic and bureaucratic performance, and developing military and security forces that are necessary in light of today’s chaos and Tehran’s clear appetite for regional domination.