Gulf countries voice support for Trump’s tough stance on Iran
LONDON - Soon after US President Donald Trump delivered a speech on Friday outlining a hard-line policy against Iran, statements were issued by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain supporting his action.
The Saudi kingdom, Iran’s main rival in the Middle East, praised the US president’s new strategy and welcomed his “commitment to working with allies in the region in order to face common challenges, particularly Iran’s aggressive policies and actions,” said a statement by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Saudi Arabia also criticised the so-called defensive approach of Tehran, shedding light on the destabilising influences and aggressive power projection of the Iranian regime.
“Iran had exploited the economic benefits of lifting the sanctions and used them to continue to destabilise the region, especially through its ballistic missile development programme and support of terrorism in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militias in Yemen,” the statement pointed out.
Iran is accused of transferring weapons and expertise to its allied militias, including the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis have launched several ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, including one targeting the Saudi capital Riyadh a day before Trump visited the Kingdom in May.
The United Arab Emirates took a similar line to Saudi Arabia, pointing out that it fully supported the US’s new policy toward Iran while renewing its commitment to working with Washington to counter Iran’s support of extremism, the state news agency WAM reported.
“For too long, the Iranian regime has spread destruction and chaos throughout the region and beyond. The nuclear deal - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - offered Iran an opportunity to engage responsibly with the international community. Instead, it only emboldened Iran to intensify its provocative and destabilising behaviour,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.
“The premise that the JCPOA would moderate Iran's policy has been a total falsehood. Iran remains a major source of regional instability,” added UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Twitter.
The UAE also described the US Treasury Department's move to sanction Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as “a strong measure that will help limit Iran's dangerous activities as the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”
On October 13, the Treasury Department slapped a number of sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military unit loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Bahrain, which previously accused Iran of being behind the 2011-13 Shia protests in its own country, also welcomed the efforts aimed at preventing Tehran from financing “terrorist militias,” stressing that Manama was the most affected by the expansionist policy of the Iranian IRGC.
“The expansionist policy of the IRGC, which aims at undermining the security of our societies by spreading and supporting extremist ideas and destructive terrorist operations, is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” a statement released by the Bahrain News Agency said.
Other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Kuwait, Oman and Qatar —have yet to comment because of their own political concerns and wanting reluctance to alienate the US administration.
Oman, which helped set up the initial contacts that eventually led to the 2015 agreement, recently announced a number of joint economic initiatives with Tehran.
Kuwait, which has had major domestic issues with some of the Islamic Republic’s proxies, has remained quiet in its capacity as regional mediator.
Kuwait is also stepping up efforts to secure the release of Al-Azmi Faleh Jumaan Al-Azmihas, a Kuwaiti national who is being detained at an Iranian military base. Al-Azmi will stand trial in Iran on October 22 for entering a prohibited military zone.
Qatar, which has recently strengthened ties with Tehran, is currently involved in a dispute with the fellow Gulf Arab states.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Qatar last week, his second this year, was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves bringing Doha and Tehran closer together.
Qatar also hosts the biggest US military base in the region, which puts it in the uncomfortable position of maintaining good relations with Washington while upholding rapprochement with Tehran.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 after a group of Iranians stormed and torched Saudi Arabia’s embassy and consulate.