Why Region should prepare for long Saudi-Iranian Confrontation

By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Ties between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been strained for years. Incidents such as the stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in 2015, in which hundreds of Iranian pilgrims were crushed to death; the execution of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January 2016; and the subsequent attacks on Saudi diplomatic compounds in Iran ultimately led to a cut in diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

This cooling soon engulfed other GCC member states, except Oman, which has traditionally enjoyed good ties with Iran.

In Iran’s view, the Arab states have little desire to create tensions but are rather under Saudi pressure to follow Riyadh’s policies. In this vein, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi last year, in response to an Arab League statement against Iran, said, “The few countries that more or less support Saudi Arabia’s mischievous policies should know that this complicity will have no result but responsibility for crimes such as child killing and support for terrorism.”

Kuwait’s efforts to act as a mediator and normalize ties between Iran and the GCC could be seen as an indicator of Iran’s view that the Arab states don’t inherently seek confrontation. Indeed, the latest of Kuwait’s efforts was the message that its foreign minister carried to Tehran on January 25. The message was initially said to have been sent by Kuwait’s emir, but was later found to have been sent in coordination with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

But do GCC member states have different views on how to interact with Iran? Nosratollah Tajik, Iran’s former ambassador to Jordan, told Al-Monitor, “The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council is centered around Saudi Arabia. To hope that Kuwait or others can change the council’s predominant view, which follows that of Saudi Arabia, is being somewhat optimistic.”

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