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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs