A Framework for Persian Gulf Security

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri
Faculty Member, University of Tehran

Persian Gulf is a region enjoying high importance in global developments due to the world’s dependence on its rich energy (oil and gas) reserves and other resources as well as its strategic position. Therefore, any event affecting security of the Persian Gulf will become important to international and global security as well. After the collapse of the world’s bipolar system many analysts believed that threats posed by the former Soviet Union are no longer extant and the way would be paved for global peace. However, efforts made by the United States to establish a new world order, have faced the Persian Gulf region (which experienced a power void in the absence of the Soviet Union) with different challenges. As a result, after the implosion of the Soviet Union (1990), the United States doubled its efforts to dominate this region’s strategic reserves which led to increased hegemony of Washington and more dependence of regional Arab states on the United States.

Following invasion of Iraq by the Western coalition led by the United States and the fall of the Iraqi Baathist regime under the pretext of “promoting democracy” and “establishment of sustainable order,” a new security model has been taking shape in the region with the West as its main axis. Military presence of the US and its intervention in regional security arrangements is considered by Iran as destabilizing and opposite to its national interests. Therefore, Iran’s behavior in this juncture can be considered a response to new conditions and security configuration in the Persian Gulf.

In that period, Iran followed interest-based policies by emphasizing on confidence building through collaboration with regional states of the Persian Gulf in order to prevent escalation of tension in the region. In line with those policies, Iran condemned Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and emphasized on the right of all regional states to independence and sovereignty in order to eliminate all existing misunderstandings and pave the way for more economic and security cooperation. Establishment of constructive relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia was an objective manifestation of that cooperation. As a result, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as two important countries in the Persian Gulf, indicated their willingness to sign a security pact for the first time in their history. However, influence and dominance of powerful global players and their anti-Iranian efforts have posed considerable threats to the national security of Iran.

Since the fall of Saddam, military presence of the United States and increased military, economic, political and strategic dependence of regional Arab states on Washington has also increased the West’s influence in the region. Major signs of that influence are numerous military bases given to the United States as well as high number of security contracts signed with Washington in parallel to its military presence in the region, and political consideration which aim to realize the United States’ security goals in the region.

After the Baathist regime in Iraq was overthrown, US politicians who were too happy with new victories, launched efforts to present a new security model for the region which comprised Persian Gulf littoral states in addition to Egypt and Syria, known as group 6+2, in order to stabilize security conditions in the region and provide necessary conditions for political and economic isolation of Iran. The plan, however, failed due to internal differences among regional countries and inability of Syria and Egypt to shape a new model for regional security arrangements. The Western states, however, decided to pursue their goals on the basis of that model.

They are well aware that relations between Arab countries and Iran are overshadowed by considerable pessimism. Therefore, by leveling false charges against Iran, like allegations about Tehran’s plan to develop nuclear weapons, they are trying to make the world believe that Iran has posed a clear danger to regional security. Unfortunately, the West’s efforts in this regard have been generally successful.

Filling the gap: Iran’s Strategic Goal

Under these conditions, it was not possible to establish regional security without intervention of foreign forces. Therefore, filling the gap by crisis management and control can be considered Iran’s most important strategic goal. New conditions have prompted Iran to engage in extensive political and economic interactions with the Persian Gulf states. Tehran has even offered its request to join the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council in order to help with the establishment of a new regional security system and eliminate all kinds of conflict inside the region.

The new strategy, which can be described as constructive interaction with Arabs, should be considered continuation of Iran’s regular policy of détente and confidence building. Within framework of this strategy, Iran has tried to make the Persian Gulf states believe that, firstly, it poses no threat to them and, secondly, any threat to Iran’s security will be also a threat to security of all regional states.

Iran maintains that presence of foreign forces is a major source of insecurity in the region and maintains that expansion of economic cooperation is a firm basis for development of regional cooperation and interactions. Following recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, however, and collapse of pro-West regime like those of Tunisia’s Bin Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and also as a result of the credibility gap facing monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan, the regional balance of power has been changed in favor of Iran and anti-Zionist resistance and against the Zionist regime of Israel and its Western allies.

Under new circumstances which followed the recent wave of Islamic uprisings, the West and Israel have launched new scenarios aimed at fomenting insecurity and difference among regional countries. In addition to leveling charges against Iran by implicating the country in the alleged assassination attempt targeting Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington and repeated claims about threatening nature of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, Western countries have also charged Iran with being the main accomplice in recent bomb attacks which targeted Israel’s embassies in Caucasus and East Asia.

This clearly proves that the West and Israel have reached the conclusion that their interests are best served by continued insecurity and differences among the Islamic countries. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia and certain countries in the Persian Gulf have taken the same confrontational and threatening approach to Iran under the influence of the Western propaganda and welcome any measure which may increases tension in the region and disturbs regional order and security. Beating the war drums and showing the green light to Western military forces by giving them military bases on their soil are just a few examples of how some Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are moving along the lines of the West’s and Israel’s interests. Undoubtedly, Iran has proven that it will use all its might to defend its independence and security and will give crushing response to and use reciprocal threat in the face of any measure which may endanger its security and interests. Therefore, it seems that emphasis on indigenous solutions and multilateral negotiations aimed at reducing tension are the best options to increase interactions among regional countries.

Grounds for Regional Interactions

Common view and interests are requisite if Iran and regional countries are supposed to come up with a model for constructive interaction.

Islam and its lofty values form the basis of a common identity for regional countries which can help them withstand the Western hegemony. Also, emphasis on the threat posed to regional countries under the pretext of fighting “Islamic fundamentalism” can be a good common denominator. Therefore, promoting the concept of common threat will provide common foundations for cooperation in the region.

Under present circumstances, “equal and balanced” partnership, which requires maximizing regional power of Iran while minimizing the role of foreign meddling elements, is the most effective and desirable model for Iran to play an effective part in the Persian Gulf. This model does not aim to impose Iran’s hegemony and decisions on other regional states, but seeks to promote common interests and increase regional interdependence in order to dismiss all Western models.

It is quite clear that the model of regional security as proposed by the United States in a unilateral effort to strengthen regional security will not get anywhere in the absence of such powerful regional players as Iran. Therefore, under present circumstances, regional countries should bank on their domestic and regional capacities to pave the way for the establishment of security through a collective effort and collaboration. It seems, however, that the security in the Persian Gulf is currently facing serious challenges as a result of border and territorial disputes as well as cultural and political interdependence among regional states.

On the other hand, presence of meddlesome and incongruous elements in the regional system has perpetuated conflicts. A desirable model for regional security under such vulnerable conditions is one which would focus the attention of local players on multilateral cooperation aimed at the establishment of common security. To establish such a common security, each player will collaborate in proportion to its abilities.

As global oil reserves are in decline, economic importance of the Middle East region for big powers is on the rise. Therefore, foreign meddling powers are exploiting cultural and political grounds as well as ethnic differences in order to fan the flames of tension and perpetuate their regional presence. In the meantime, the interests of the Persian Gulf littoral countries call on them to form bilateral and multilateral governmental and nongovernmental institutions and organizations to both dismiss foreign intervention in shaping new security arrangements, and defend the rights of all regional countries.

Source: Tehran Emrooz Daily
Translated By: Iran Review

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