Sorry, the Olympics get started today, but that doesn’t mean that EuroSavant coverage will be dominated by them. You wouldn’t want that anyway, no? . . .
One aspect of the ongoing crisis around the alleged attempts by the Iranian government to develop nuclear weapons that usually goes unexamined is the attitude of Arab states, especially those in Iran’s immediate neighborhood. (Well, it’s true that the vagaries of the Iraq-Iran relationship have certainly received their fair share of attention – but let’s treat that as a special case.) Sami Al Faraj, President of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies (all I could find on the Net was this), gives an enlightening interview to Der Tagesspiegel about the Gulf state perspective on Iran (specifically, that of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia) in the article “Against Iran Much Harder Economic Sanctions Are Necessary”.
To be sure, the Gulf states also recoil in horror at the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, al Faraj makes it clear. There is a fundamental Sunni-vs.-Shia divide operating there that does not want to see Iran able to expand its sphere of inluence anymore. It just seems like no one is really doing anything about stopping them. Not the Europeans: they don’t understand how Iran is simply talking to draw things out and gain more time; and not the UN, that up to now has imposed meaningless sanctions (in his view) and otherwise just talks on the issue to hear itself talk. Anyway, whenever any tougher sanctions seem to be in the offing, it is Russia and China that block them. It’s time for the Gulf states to act together in a more unified way and approach new Russian President Dimitri Medvedev to make it clear that future sales of nuclear technology to the Arab Middle East (including to Egypt or Jordan, since its the Arab oil producers who will ultimately be paying the bills for that as well) will depend on Russian cooperation versus Iran. Dealings with the Chinese might be more difficult, considering their culture’s preoccuptation with not “losing face,” but the Arabs operate themselves within a “bazaar culture” and should be able to bring them around.
Gotta Cover Our Arab Tracks . . .
Those who do seem willing to do something about Iran – at least occasionally – are of course the US and Israel, from whom periodic warnings arise about a possible military strike against Iran. Al Faraj advances the quite striking view that the Gulf states would be willing to accept such a military strike, if there turns out to be no other way to dissuade the Iranians from their (alleged) course towards nuclear weapons. Naturally, that would unlease a grave crisis, and the GCC nations would unfortunately have front-row seats from their location right across the Persian Gulf (which they refer to as the “Arabian Gulf,” BTW). But if that has to happen, fine: in his view things are already too close to getting out of hand witht he Iranians. Now get this: If there has to be such a military strike, Al Faraj argues that the Gulf states would prefer that it be carried out by Israel. Why? Because then Teheran will assume that the GCC was in no way involved, so that maybe Iran would think twice before doing any retaliation against them, and maybe also Iran-GCC relations would have that much better a chance of being resuscitates when the dust finally cleared.
That’s certainly an interesting perspective. Frankly, Al Faraj’s anti-Teheran rhetoric in this interview is what is striking. (One can assume he is a Kuwaiti.) Not only is his view of the sanctions that should be imposed on Iran somewhat extreme – “There should be absolutely no more trade with Iran. No technology transfer, no financial transactions, no trade, nichts” – but he also expresses alarm over the trade and financial links already existing across the Persian/Arabian Gulf: “We Gulf states don’t need Iran for our economy. We only manage their money, we don’t need it. We have even created thousands of Jobs for the Iranians!” In normal times, it’s that sort of economic intercourse between countries that generally acts to make all parties well off – it’s called the “gains of trade.” Sami Al Faraj seems unable to imagine a world, in the past or in the future, where the countries around the Persian/Arabian Gulf can peacefully work together towards the prosperity of all.