UAE and Saudi Arabia dragging Washington into their local rivalry with Iran: Paul Pillar

Iranian Diplomacy – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years says that “The security problems in the Middle East in which Iran is involved are not clear situations, in which there is one aggressor and one victim.”

Pillar also says, “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are getting the Trump administration to take their side in a local rivalry in which the United States has less of a stake than they do.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Washington has announced the formation of a military alliance in the Middle East against Iran, with the participation of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain, which is scheduled to be introduced in the United States soon. Will this coalition be considered as a real coalition or a military organization?

 

A: The announced alliance probably will consist mostly of putting a new label on existing alignments.  None of this changes the orientation of any of the states involved toward regional issues, or entails assuming new obligations.  It is unlikely that this alliance will take the form of a new treaty, such as the treaty that created NATO.  It is even less likely to result in a joint military organization such as NATO has.

Q: Due to the failure of previous coalitions against Iran, such as the Saudi or Persian Gulf Cooperation Council alliances against Iran, How is the fate of the current U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic Republic of Iran assessed?

 

A: One has to ask: what exactly is the objective of the alliance?  Most such alliances state are formed for defensive reasons, with each member promising to come to the aid of the others if they are attacked.  As long as Iran does not commit clear aggression against any of the states involved, then the alliance will make no difference in the members’ policies or actions.  The security problems in the Middle East in which Iran is involved are not clear situations, in which there is one aggressor and one victim.  It is hard to see how success and failure in such circumstances would even be defined.

 

Q: Why is it said that the coalition will be formed three weeks before sanctions against Iran?

 

A: The Trump administration is determined to pressure and oppose Iran on every possible front.  The sanctions are the main part of that.  Making common cause with regional rivals is another part.  The timing is probably not coincidental.

 

Q: Due to the policies of Donald Trump, it seems the U.S.-Arab military alliance is formed to extort from Arab countries especially through spread Iran phobia. What do you think about this?

 

A: There is plenty of Iran phobia to go around.  Neither side in this alliance is changing much the thinking of the other side.  To the extent that one side is extracting benefits from the other, it is mostly not a matter of the United States extorting from Arab countries.  Instead, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are getting the Trump administration to take their side in a local rivalry in which the United States has less of a stake than they do.

 

Q: On the other hand, the current military alliance is with the participation of the Air Force and the Navy. Although the coalition needs the Land Army to succeed. How is this issue evaluated?

 

A: The types of military confrontations most likely to occur–such as an altercation at sea in the Persian Gulf–are ones in which air and naval forces would be most relevant.  Land forces would come into play only with a larger scale war.  Such a war would do no one any good, and we should hope that one will not occur.

 

* This piece was originally published in Tehran Times. The headline and some minor segments in the body of the interview have been changed by IRD editorial.