Gulf Arab states work to contain Iran’s expansionism

The Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia not only comes from the Iraqi border but also from neighbouring Yemen.
Sunday 15/07/2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on July 10. (AFP)
Shared concerns. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on July 10. (AFP)

LONDON - Gulf Arab countries worked to limit Iran’s suspected expansionist regional agenda while Tehran reels from the collapse of its nuclear deal and dissatisfaction grows among the Iranian populace.

During an official visit to the United Arab Emirates on July 10, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington and its regional allies intended to show Tehran that its regional activities come with “a real high cost.”

“The one that we are most focused on today is… that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behaviour,” Pompeo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia.

“So it’s… a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behaviour is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.”

The United Arab Emirates stated its agreement with Pompeo, particularly regarding the Emirates’ efforts to neutralise “Iran’s malign activity.”

“[There is] agreement over all the issues on the table, a historic partnership is becoming deeper,” tweeted UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash.

Coinciding with Pompeo’s visit was the US State Department’s designation of the Bahrain-based, Iran-backed al-Ashtar Brigades as a foreign terrorist organisation, a move welcomed in Bahrain, which has a long history of Iranian interference in its domestic affairs.

The State Department said the designation was meant to deny al-Ashtar resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. It said the measure was part of a campaign to deter “Iran’s malign behaviour and stop its support for terrorists around the world.”

Bahrain said al-Ashtar Brigades was responsible for “numerous vicious attacks against innocent civilians and security personnel, causing significant damage to public and private property.”

The efforts by Gulf Arab countries are in reaction to antagonistic behaviour from Iran, including in Lebanon with Hezbollah and in Iraq with al-Hashed al-Shaabi. In Syria numerous armed groups sponsored and trained by Iran are fighting to support President Bashar Assad.

The Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia not only comes from the Iraqi border but also from neighbouring Yemen. Riyadh leads an Arab coalition to liberate the country from the Iran-allied Houthi militia.

Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah al-Mualami submitted a memorandum of protest over what it described as repeated “infringements and violations” of Iranian vessels in Saudi territorial waters despite an agreement signed in October 1968 by both sides.

Mualami said the Saudi government held Iran responsible for any damage that may arise because of the violations.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani recently threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a move that would disrupt the world’s energy supplies, over US oil sanctions set to go into effect in November.

In an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel, Mualami said Riyadh would confront Hezbollah and expose its practices.

The coalition said it had proof that Hezbollah instructors have been training the Houthis on using the systems in command-and-control centres in Saada province, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki told the Saudi Press Agency.

This was followed by the Yemeni government filling an official complaint with the United Nations and the Lebanese government over Hezbollah’s support of Houthis.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Hussein al-Yamani, in a letter, called on the Lebanese government to rein in Hezbollah’s activities in Yemen.

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