Wisdom vital if war is to be avoided

by DR. ABDELLATIF EL-MENAWY

The three summits called for by Saudi Arabia achieved a decisive result in rejecting Iranian interference in the internal affairs of many Arab countries. They also supported the Kingdom and the UAE following the recent attacks they were subjected to, which were believed to have been ordered by Iran.

Saudi Arabia called these Arab, Gulf and Islamic summits in order to restore the prestige of the region, its status and unity against the ambitions of regional parties. They produced a unified Arab and Islamic stance against Iran, while sending a firm message that it is not permissible to jeopardize the security of Gulf states through Iranian provocations, the continuous launching of Houthi missiles against Saudi territory, or by threatening the interests of other Gulf states, including threats to block the Strait of Hormuz.

In spite of this firm stance, the Arabs are still open to peace, as they confirmed their desire to spare the region the risk of confrontation in the final communique of the Arab summit. Is there a chance of this happening?

Saudi Arabia has declared in the past — and still declares — that it does not want war, the same as the UAE. In general, no one wants war. Not a single country could have achieved all its developmental targets while talking about launching war.

As for Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week, during a visit to Iraq, that his country had proposed signing a non-aggression treaty with the Gulf states in response to the escalating tensions in the region and increasing fears of a direct military confrontation between Iran and the US.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran is ready to “take any measure to build confidence and establish constructive and friendly relations with all countries of the region, including the signing of a treaty on non-aggression.” Such a step would defuse the situation in the region, preventing the threat of imminent war.

However, I think the Iranian side should take more and bigger steps to diffuse the situation. It must make an explicit pledge after endangering the security of the Gulf states. It must stop supporting the Houthi militias in Yemen, which could contribute to the end of the war in that country. It must try to help reach a comprehensive solution to the Yemeni crisis, instead of pouring more oil on the fire. In addition, it must tune down its populist rhetoric in the region.

Not a single country could have achieved all its developmental targets while talking about launching war.

Iran must stop causing sedition in Lebanon through supporting Hezbollah, which threatens stability in Lebanon and in the Gulf region. It must immediately stop potential threats to the countries of the region. It must also stop its attempts to enrich uranium and possess nuclear weapons, which jeopardizes the security of the whole region. Will the Iranian leaders listen? Will they be aware of this decisive moment in the history of the region?

On the American side, the intensity of the White House’s media war has escalated as far as threatening Iran with a military strike. However, the tone changes from time to time, as President Donald Trump goes from tweeting threats of war and new economic sanctions to declaring that he “does not want war.” In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump said that, although he does not want war, “you have states like Iran that should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. You can’t let that happen.”

The US is dealing with the Iranian crisis similar to the way it dealt with North Korea. Washington reverted to putting pressure on Pyongyang to force it to agree to sit and talk but, as Trump prepares for the 2020 presidential election, will he be ready for such a move with Tehran?

Analysts point out that America is waging psychological and economic war against Iran by escalating the tone of its rhetoric regarding this file, in addition to imposing a package of economic sanctions. Washington may be willing to “break the edge” of Iran’s morals through sanctions that might lead the Iranian people to the streets — a measure that has been frequently used by US governments against their opponents.

However, Washington is also sending military reinforcements to the region and is redeploying its military forces in Iraq in preparation for a possible confrontation with Iran and its allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. It has also evacuated its non-essential diplomatic staff from Baghdad and Irbil.

The roots of the conflict and the crisis between the Arabs and Iran are not an outcome of our present time. Instead, they have a rather well-known doctrinal basis. What is known as “exporting the Islamic revolution” that broke out in Tehran in 1979 is the most important event in this conflict. The Gulf states, along with all other Arab countries, fear this declared Iranian approach, which was adopted as the top priority of the post-revolution regime, especially with the presence of Shiite minorities in a number of Arab countries.

By the end of 1980, the Iran-Iraq War had broken out, with significant Arab support for the Iraqi side. In May 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and Oman — was formally declared. Riyadh aimed to establish a defensive wall against the ambitions of the Iranian regime in the region. So, in 1982, it declared the establishment of the Peninsula Shield Force, which combines military units of all the GCC countries in order to protect them and deter military aggression.

The crisis has evolved with time, but the basis of the conflict is the same. Everybody is required to behave with the utmost wisdom in this critical moment in order to spare the region a war that would make things worse, especially after the successes achieved by Arab states in their war on terror and their destruction of the Daesh terrorist group.

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