News / Middle East

Experts: Iran-GCC Rapprochement Remains Elusive

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks with Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah during a working luncheon in Kuwait City December 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee (KUWAIT - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX15ZJX
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks with Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah during a working luncheon in Kuwait City December 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee (KUWAIT - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX15ZJX
Cecily Hilleary
Following its recent nuclear agreement with the six world powers, analysts say Iran is actively looking to mend fences with its Gulf neighbors. Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif recently completed a whirlwind tour of four of the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and secured promises of reciprocal visits.  But mistrust of Iran runs high in the Gulf, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and experts say Tehran’s recently diplomatic initiative is unlikely to sway its wary neighbors. 

Thomas Mattair who is Executive Director of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C., says suspicion of Iran among the Gulf Arab starts with the fact that Iran is a revolutionary state whose agenda is in conflict with both Western nations and its Gulf neighbors.
Thomas MattairThomas Mattair
x
Thomas Mattair
Thomas Mattair

“It’s also a regime that has instigated unrest in the Arab Gulf states,” Mattair said.  “It has cultivated Shia communities that are minorities and encouraged their protests and it has engaged in terror in these states—not recently, but recently enough to be remembered and to be a concern.”

Mattair points out that Iran took advantage of the U.S. intervention in Iraq to infiltrate Revolutionary Guards into Iraq, challenge U.S. forces, shape Iraqi militias and, he says, ultimately gain influence over the government of Nouri al-Maliki. 

“And that is a very big potential threat to the Gulf Arab leaders, to see Iran in such a position of power in Iraq,” Mattair said. 

Iran, he says, is helping fuel sectarian conflict in Syria by siding with the Syrian government in what has increasingly become a sectarian conflict between Bashar al-Assad’s largely Alawite army and Sunni rebels.

“And so when the Sunni Arab leaders see Sunni Arabs being slaughtered in Syria by an Alawite regime - an offshoot of Shi’ism, supported by Iran - they face domestic pressure from their own Sunni populations to do something about this," he said.

Mattair also says Gulf Arab states view Iran as a geopolitical threat in terms of its conventional and covert capabilities. “It’s a big, looming powerful country from the perspective of the Gulf Arab regimes,” he said, “and that is why they also spend so much time and money building their defenses."

Majid Rafizadeh is an American political scientist, analyst and commentator on the Middle East and Iran. He says Iran is unlikely to fundamentally change its behavior  toward its regional Gulf neighbors because, as he puts it, “from the perspective of Iranian leaders and particularly Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran's supreme leader, any change would lessen Iran's influence and diminish Tehran's power and leverage, regionally and internationally.”

Majid RafizadehMajid Rafizadeh
x
Majid Rafizadeh
Majid Rafizadeh
Rafizadeh says the GCC states are generally suspicion of Tehran's intention to halt its nuclear program, as demonstrated in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables which reported that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called on the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” by destroying Iran’s nuclear sites in a military strike.

“It is also crucial to point out that this is not the first time that Iran reaches a first temporary deal with the P5+1,” Rafizadeh said. “Eagerness and pressure from both sides usually have contributed to broad first agreements. However, it is less likely that the provisional agreement will lead to an enduring one.”

Rafizadeh says previous agreements have failed over Tehran’s objections to site inspections or when Tehran has disputed the interpretation of the text of an agreement previously agreed to by all parties.

“Iran's stand on its nuclear program and the P5+1 and the West's position seem to be too deep to bridge,” Rafizadeh said.

While Tehran’s recently diplomatic flurry might improve relations with its GCC neighbors in small ways, Rafizadeh believes that the underlying geopolitical, ideological, sectarian, and strategic tensions with Gulf Arab neighbors are too deep and complex to resolve anytime soon.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

Assistant director says that clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, United States, Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
December 11, 2013 9:08 AM
Don't understand what is driving the Obama administration's suicidal trust in Iran when its gulf neighbors who understand Iran in-depth have been sensing nothing but danger in it. Again Ed Royce argued in the House about Iran's history of deceit and so not be trusted. Yet Obama and Kerry think otherwise. While I see in Obama the the desire to hurt someone by the action of gratuitous support to Iran, I see in Kerry someone who wants to keep his job having been out of job by accepting to serve someone he earlier rubbed shoulders with in the lead up to the presidential primaries - he is both deceived and subjugated; quite a pity.

But once again I see US politicians placing self before the country, as happened during the shutdown. Add to this that Iran is moving forward with the 1992 plans with Russia building more new nuclear plants in the gulf despite the interim deal with so-called world powers. Add also to it that the Iranians have vowed to not give up the entirety of uranium enrichment inside the country - which is the source of fear in Iran's nuclear program, the bone of contention. So what is the trust? Do Mr. Obama and Kerry think they will make the Ayatollah Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani and other hardliners change their minds on the issue?

Do they first want to see Iran meet its target of reaching nuclear warhead? What do they want to achieve seeing that everything they are doing right now will be a waste in the end because at the end of six months, the whole negotiation will enter reverse gear and neuter whatever they think has been achieved earlier. It's all exercise in futility. Question is, why should both Kerry and Obama waste both time and resources in it knowing it is going to end in failure, as every indication points to?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid