Mecca summits are needed to deal with Iran's threats

Arabs can no longer afford to spend more decades under the threat of the Iranian regime, which stands in the way of progress, security and stability.
Thursday 30/05/2019
Critical juncture. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) speaks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Diriya Palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Critical juncture. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) speaks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Diriya Palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s call for two emergency Gulf and Arab summits is an important event that stems from the kingdom’s concern, in the words of a Foreign Ministry official, for “consultation and coordination within the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League and in all that could enhance security and stability in the region.”

It is noteworthy that the two summits May 30 in Mecca will coincide with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit, scheduled for May 31, also in Mecca. King Salman wanted to combine the three meetings in one place and at the same time, something that happens only under exceptional circumstances, especially considering that there was an Arab summit only two months ago.

The Saudi call for the summits comes in light of developments, notably the May 12 attack on commercial ships near the United Arab Emirates' territorial waters and the attack on two oil pumping stations May 14 in Saudi Arabia.

These terrorist acts were further evidence of the persistence of Iran to threaten peace, security and stability, not only in the region but in the entire world because the matter has become relevant to international oil markets, posing a direct threat to world economies and people’s way of life.

The Iranian regime did not leave the Arabs any room for agreement or peaceful solutions to the crises that it keeps contriving through its interference in the Arab region’s internal affairs and its attempts to export an ideological project as a cover for imperial and expansionist ambitions. Tehran’s means to do so are militias and terrorist groups that have frequently shown willingness to wage proxy wars and openly declared themselves to be the destructive arm of the Iranian regime.

Saudi Arabia is trying to progress, at least gradually, towards political, social and cultural reform and to move beyond the cultural remnants of the decades of the “Saudi revivalism” through its war on terrorism and extremism.

Iran, on the other hand, continues aggressive rhetoric shrouded in sectarianism, frightening everyone in the process. As the Iranian people suffer, it seems that the mullahs’ regime can survive only by exporting its crises, especially to countries of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf, countries that have always been the first target of Iran’s historic ambitions. This is especially true in the case of Saudi Arabia, which Iran is trying to besiege from all sides.

Faced with harsh US sanctions because of its nuclear project, sanctions that are portending an explosion of popular anger precipitated by worsening economic and social conditions, Iran is trying to escalate its own crisis by assaulting neighbouring countries. Sabotaging commercial ships off the coast of Fujairah and the targeting of Aramco oil pumping stations deep inside Saudi Arabia have Iranian involvement written all over them.  The latter act of sabotage was claimed by the Houthi terrorist militias, Iran’s arm in Yemen.

Media reports revealed that Lebanese Hezbollah militias and similar pro-Iran groups in Iraq and Syria have been instructed to carry out sabotage in the region, especially in case of US military action against Iran.

Through these militias, which are closely connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran is trying to cover up its internal weaknesses. Iran is not the military powerhouse that some believe it to be and the ruling authorities in Tehran have no real popular support, except from those benefiting from rampant corruption or from those swayed by the Persian nationalistic rhetoric of expanding at the expense of Arabs.

Western reports speak of the mullahs' reliance on the terror that their militias spread across countries in the region. However, the militias are themselves the cause of Iran's crisis. They are the ones that placed Iran in the position it is in today and may be the reason behind future international sanctions.

The three summits set for at the end of this month in Mecca may turn out to be full of important surprises. The world views Saudi Arabia as a real economic, social and cultural stabiliser, unlike Iran, which appears to be a threat to international peace.

The extraordinary Arab summits must adopt a firm stance against Iran's destructive role and against its militias. Arab leaders should go beyond the usual rhetoric of shirking responsibility and equivocation and take a courageous stand against Tehran's threats to Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Those who believe that they are immune from Iranian interference, even in the Western outskirts of the Arab world, are making a big mistake, just like those who believe they could benefit from cooperation with Iran. It is a rogue country that has rebelled against international law and neighbourly considerations. Iran no longer has anything to offer or even to promise.

The Gulf summits will be occasions to reaffirm the complementary alliance between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and for Kuwait to take a clear stand beyond just warning of escalation. It is an occasion for isolated Qatar to regain its senses since it had chosen to leave the Gulf and Arab folds and become vassal to Iran and Turkey and to support political Islam of both the Sunni and Shia strands.

The three summits will support any choice that Saudi Arabia will make. Riyadh has lost all hope with Iran and realised that Tehran is pursuing the same belligerent doctrine on which its political project was built 40 years ago.

Arabs can no longer afford to spend more decades under the threat of the Iranian regime, which stands in the way of progress, security and stability.