In any decisions about Iran, interests of the region should matter

War in our region should not be a result of American moods, whims and internal agendas.
Sunday 26/05/2019
The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge sail in the Arabian Sea, May 17. (US Navy via Reuters)
The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge sail in the Arabian Sea, May 17. (US Navy via Reuters)

Since Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s call for emergency Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council summits in Mecca, the conflict with Iran has taken on a different tenor.

It is assumed and hoped that the aftermath of these three meetings — the previous scheduled Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit included — will be different than what has been the case. Iran will read this development in a different light that would rearrange details and priorities of the crisis in an unprecedented way.

Riyadh will not be settling for the kind of positions that traditionally have been stated at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meetings. Saudi Arabia has decided that the situation has become urgent and needs to be addressed with historic boldness and that the countries of the region must take a position on a matter that is at the core of strategic security.

It is unacceptable for the Arabs to be looking at the escalating tensions in the region as though they were neutral bystanders. It is no longer permissible for the countries of the Gulf and the Arab region to be on the receiving end of decisions of war and peace made in distant capitals or peace decisions and agreements concocted behind the scenes without regard to their views and opinions or without considering the concerns of countries of the region and the fears of their people, whether in matters of war or peace.

Iran has been a major Arab concern since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, while the rest of the world considered it a normal development and rushed to establish relations with it.

Iran has consistently been a threat to Arabs and has achieved what Israel has been unable to do. Iran is at the heart of their divisions, schisms and fragmentation.

It is enough to contemplate the state that Yemeni society, which has reverted to pre-republican divisions, has reached. It is enough to look at the abhorrent sectarianism that has gripped the Iraqis in a way that their country had never experienced since its creation in the 1920s. It is enough to look at the situation in Lebanon, where the Iranian regime bred schism even inside various communities and where divisions have become surreal and limitless, going beyond the traditional political and sectarian lines. It is enough to consider the Syrian disaster to see how Iranian cancer has destroyed man, infrastructure and country.

US President Donald Trump only recently discovered Iran. He used it as one of the headlines of his first presidential campaign and is now enlisting it permanently as a battle horse for his next campaign. The United States, which has long used the Iranian case and colluded with the Iranian regime, has woken up to the true nature of this regime. Nobody in the region was fooled.

Over the past four decades, Washington has woven explicit and hidden understandings and agreements with Tehran, not the first of which was the 2015 nuclear agreement. Year after year, the United States accrued a pattern of retreat when it came to Iran. The Gulf countries and the Arabs know that the tension between Iran and the United States is a circumstantial aberration within a disappointing historical context.

The convening of the three summits in Mecca comes exactly two years after the same summits took place with Trump’s presence in Riyadh. The first summits expressed the willingness of the Arab and Muslim world to cooperate with the United States on issues of progress, technology, peace and counterterrorism. The upcoming summits should face Washington and its leader with what the region wants from America in the context of its “belated” crisis with Iran.

It is not acceptable for war to break out in our homes without the people of the region being heard. The summits should accordingly not be directed against Iran only but rather against the selling out of the region’s security in exchange for bilateral agreements simmering over a low flame behind the apparent ruckus, agreements revealed by the mediations between Washington and Tehran orchestrated by Oman and others. If war is necessary, then the Arabs must have a say in its conduct and outcome.

The decision of an American war against Iran is being played out according to internal US calculations: debates between Republicans and Democrats and a tug of war between the US Congress and the White House.

War in our region should not be a result of American moods, whims and internal agendas. The Arabs should not be a mere number in US files put on the negotiation table during the inevitable coming negotiations with Iran.

The normalisation of Arab-Iranian relations must not be taken for granted or be an annex in an agreement between Washington and Tehran. No international-US-Iranian agreement, like the nuclear deal of four years ago, should be accepted without having the stance of the Gulf nations and the Arabs tabled in.

The three summits, both the regular and urgent meetings, are a historic occasion that could set the foundations for a new regional order. If the current crisis provides for additional factors for the formation of this new international system, then history calls on all the countries of the region — Arab, Gulf and Muslim — not to be absent from the developments that would reshape and remap this world.

What is required of the Gulf and the Arab summits is to bring in positions that would anticipate what Turkey and Iran have in store for the regular session of the Islamic summit.

The urgency inherent in summoning emergency summits should not be lost on people in the neighbourhood and should be understood by them before being understood by those with agendas that are distant from those of the region.