Gulf monarchies afraid of Iran, getting ready for big war

Arab Persian Gulf kingdoms are building a 100,000-strong collective defense force to counter an alleged threat from Iran.

In the middle of December, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which comprises Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia, unveiled plans to establish a joint military command with headquarters in Riyadh. A Saudi general is expected to be appointed the joint troops’ commander. The Gulf monarchies already have a similar though smaller rapid reaction force. Its expansion indicates that political and military cooperation between the Gulf Arab nations has entered a new level, said Yelena Melkumyan, a Russian orientalist and professor at the Russian State Humanitarian University’s Middle East Department.

“The Gulf monarchies are beefing up their joint troop contingent and are giving significantly more attention to military cooperation. On the one hand, they seem to continue doing what they were doing in the past, but on the other hand, new realities are forcing them to focus more on defense matters. They fear a growing threat from Iran. Tehran is currently in talks with Washington. It signed a preliminary nuclear agreement in Geneva. So the Gulf nations realize that things are beginning to change. In the past, they hoped for the deterring role of the United States in confrontation with Iran, but now they have to rely more on their own,” Prof. Melkumyan told the Voice of Russia.

The Gulf nations have much in common – all of them monarchies, all Sunni-dominated and all thriving thanks to hydrocarbons. Yet, it would be wrong to think that their alliance is monolithic. There are in fact deep differences inside the bloc. However, the rise of their Shia big neighbor – Iran – has prompted them to drop petty squabbles and team up against a common threat, said Vasily Kuznetsov, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Middle East of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“The situation in the Persian Gulf is becoming more serious. There are two equally strong rival powers – Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Gulf Cooperation Council was specifically designed to unite the Gulf monarchies against Iran. The threat is real and it’s a no-nonsense fight. But no Gulf army has any chance against the Iranian army as far as combat efficiency is concerned. No matter how well it is armed, the Iranians will still be better at war. Still, I would say that a military conflict between the Gulf nations and Iran looks pretty unlikely for a variety of reasons, above all, the highly pragmatic nature of both the Iranian and Saudi regimes. The establishment of the joint Gulf defense seems to me a political move and a positive one for the Gulf nations as it shows their ability to reach consensus, rather than a response to new realities in the security sphere.”

It could also be a pick at Washington which, in Riyadh’s opinion, is going too far in adjusting its relations with Tehran. One needn’t be a prophet to understand that Riyadh’s “independent” foreign policy ends one meter from the line of the breakup of strategic partnership with Washington. The United States is Saudi Arabia’s sole security guarantor in the Middle East.

Anyway, the Persian Gulf defense alliance may potentially have a negative impact on the region as it actually fuels tension between Riyadh and Tehran.

By The Journal Of Turkish Weekly


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