Why the Arab Gulf Oil Monarchies should Welcome Iran Deal

By Miriam R Lowi | (Via al-Araby al-Jadeed ) | – –

Gulf states, long-time rivals of Tehran, should seize the opportunities for regional peace and security offered by the historic deal, writes Miriam Lowi.

In recent months, a lot has been said about the promises and perils of negotiating with Iran, making compromises and reaching agreement.

In addition to Israel, Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours have been especially anxious about the outcome of negotiations.

But the agreement arrived at on July 14 actually provides a sorely needed opportunity for regional players to turn the page on policies and practices that have failed to improve security in the region and for its peoples.

Rather than respond with fear, Gulf monarchies should seize the opportunity to imagine new, and hopefully more effective ways to address the violence and human suffering that persists today. How would this work?

The agreement shows that when adversaries face each other and engage across a table, there is a chance that they will come to some mutual understanding. When they don’t do so, there’s little chance of moving beyond adversarial positions.

As time passes and adversaries persist in spurning and maligning each other, their positions tend to harden. Adversaries become increasingly intransigent, and hyperbolic rhetoric mounts.

Isolating and punishing one’s adversary – through embargoes, sanctions, “closures” of various sorts, extra-judicial killings – does not bring them to heel; more often than not, it radicalises them, or at least toughens their resolve.

As Obama noted, the agreement with Iran – after more than three decades of hostility between the Islamic Republic and the United States – reduces the possibility for yet another war in the Middle East. This, in and of itself, is a positive outcome.

“No doubt, some have been eager for another war in the region, and with Iran in particular.

The peoples of the region have been living in unending turmoil since 2003, at least, with significant escalation during the past three to four years.

No doubt, some have been eager for another war in the region, and with Iran in particular.

But Gulf states should be wary of objectively finding themselves in the same camp as Israel.

Alas, Israel’s concerns are focused squarely on gaining most of historic Palestine for a Jewish state. Achieving this goal has meant the continued oppression of the Palestinian people – who, despite more than half a century of punishment, have not given up.

Israel’s relentless finger pointing at Iran – another strong, steadfast, and technologically sophisticated regional power with “bullying” capacity – and its increasingly hysterical insistence that the Islamic Republic represents the principal threat to regional security is, in large measure, a way to distract international attention from its own brutality in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – and now, among the Negev Bedouin as well.

No doubt, in the current, dreadfully sectarian environment in the Middle East, Netanyahu looks on gleefully as Gulf states vent their aversion for Iran – and by inferred association, for Shia populations and Shiism in its various forms.

The sectarian turn suits Netanyahu’s aims beautifully, at the same time as it tears the region apart. Gulf states play into Netanyahu’s hands by joining the chorus of Iran/Shia demonisers.

Now’s the time for Gulf states to distance themselves from Israel’s posturing.

Now’s the time for Gulf states to return to the Arab fold and take up the real struggles. Gulf states should devote themselves to addressing the most pernicious conditions that prevail in the region today: notably, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their lands, and the destructive force of mounting sectarianism.

How, though, can Gulf states contribute to rolling back sectarianism?

There are, it seems, two essential tasks. First and foremost, they should embrace their own Shia citizens – the vast majority of whom are Arabs. At long last, these communities should be accorded whatever rights and opportunities their Sunni co-nationals enjoy.

When Shia nationals are no longer marginalised and treated as potential traitors by their own governments, the likelihood that they would claim allegiance to or be recuperated by Iran would recede.

Indeed, integrating their Shia citizens into the national community would help strengthen Gulf Arab regimes and better equip them to face other regional powers, especially Iran, rather than feel threatened by them.

Some degree of cooperation between Iran and the Gulf monarchies would open up multiple possibilities.

Second, with integration underway, Gulf states should seek opportunities to engage in discussion with Iran, across a table, in the spirit of hopefully arriving at some degree of mutual understanding.

There would be much to talk about, and both parties would likely find that they share several interests and concerns. They could explore avenues to cooperation in trade, but also in education, science, and technology.

Together, they could tackle the thorny issue of sectarianism in the region. Just as Gulf states should fully integrate their Shia populations, so Iran should restrain its allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and stop encouraging the spirit of revenge among Shia populations.

Iran should be made to understand that its hegemonic ambitions in the region, backed by official sectarian discourse and executed by a host of agents, have been and remain deeply destructive.

Some degree of cooperation between Iran and the Gulf monarchies would open up multiple possibilities.

It may prove to be a dissuasive force regarding Israel. It could pave the way toward resolving conflicts in the region. It could even empower the entire region as a player in the international arena.

Embarking on these two tasks will not only reduce the perception of threat from Iran; it will contribute to reducing tensions, hostilities and the threat of war.

Gulf states should welcome the nuclear agreement and seize the opportunities it offers for bringing peace and security to the region. The time is now.

Miriam Lowi is professor of comparative and Middle East politics, at The College of New Jersey. She is also author of Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics: Algeria Compared (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Water and Power: the Politics of a Scarce Resource in the Jordan River Basin (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Via al-Araby al-Jadeed


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “Iran: Nuclear Deal is New Chance for Regional Cooperation”

5 Responses

    • Why it Doesn’t Matter What the Monarchies Welcome.

      Again, this is informed by ancient memory as a cursory search didn’t find anyone who is working it. I’ll quote Al Monitor and then state my personal understanding of what’s just happened regarding the the Iran nuclear agreement. I’ll be happy indeed to be straightened-out by my friends here should I have erred.

      Al Monitor:

      “The congressional debate over the Iran agreement is one of the most crucial debates in recent American history. At stake here is not only the Vienna agreement, but mainly US international posture. It could even touch upon its identity as a liberal country.”

      The outcome of the congressional debate must be moot and therefore a victory for our President as it is an attempt to exceed the power of the Legislature under the Constitution. The fact that the President signed the legislation authorizing a Bill of Approval doesn’t make it constitutional. They got what they asked for but not what they wanted.

      For what it’s worth I have little doubt that it would be seen otherwise in the courts. It is not an issue of first impression. The Judiciary has visited it in the past. It has approved Executive Agreements as within the Executive’s power. I’m not sure what the origins of the doctrine were, but it could even have been a mere matter of efficiency allowing the Executive to streamline interaction with other countries.

      The agreement has been signed by all the parties’ executive proxies. According to Supreme Court precedent, It is not a treaty which requires ratification by the Senate in order to become a part of international law. Sure, it could be repudiated by the next President but it’s in place now and the Security Council had every right to act upon it. Once it did the matter was over. It’s the law of nations. It’s not subject to after the fact whims of American legislators though I can imagine a subsequent Security Council revoking it if all fifteen members were chosen by a single little country in the Middle East.

      It is an executive agreement which does not require ratification by the Senate. There are hundreds of them in the files of the State Department. What turned this particular executive agreement into international law is that it has been adopted as such by the United Nations Security Council, unanimously. That included the USA.

      That unity represents a fundamental change of American foreign policy. In the past the UNSC declaration would have been vetoed by the United States at the *demand* of a single, tiny Asian country. What especially gratifies me is that we did not take the timid position of abstention out of fear of the Lobby. We voted for it. A new era is dawning.

      It’s not going to change as the result of some comic opera diktat from the American Congress. Who, after all, do those ladies and gentlemen think they are? A global legislature, perhaps?

      If the agreement is ostensibly disapproved by our solons, President Obama will veto it because it exceeds the the constitutional powers of the Legislature. If the veto is overridden the matter will go to our tenured federal court system which unlike our Congress is free from conflicted and illegal outside pressure.

      If the courts decide that they can retroactively delete the American Executive’s signature from an Executive Agreement after the fact, what would be the effect? Nothing. It’s already become international law. It is a fact accomplished.

      The Security Council does not submit to national demands that it reverse its position on important matters of international politics. It has its own hierarchy. It’s certainly not going to do so upon the demand of a mere branch of government in such a situation.

      Presuming I am correct, these realities are going to be percolating about in Congress and the enthusiasm among the reactionaries for facing the next election cycle having been proved ignorant of the Constitution they swore to uphold will have an effect on how they vote on this so called Bill of Approval. At minimum they won’t want to look like herd of jackasses before their own constituents, voting their ideology instead of the American interest which is NOT, repeat NOT, an American war against Iran on behalf of a tiny Asian state whose interests diverge fundamentally from ours.

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