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Mordechai Kedar: Engulfed by Fear

UAE leaders meeting with Hamas PM Haniyeh

Photo Credit: Mohammed Al-Ostaz/Flash 90

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All of these factors together, as well as a lack of faith that the West and the United States will support them in their hour of need, has created great fear among the leaders of the Gulf states over the Iranian giant, and today they are dominated by the feeling that there is no choice for them except to change the geo-political equation vis a vis Iran. To do this, they must coordinate their political and security policies, because the divisiveness that prevails in the Arabian Peninsula only weakens them. Saudi Arabia, which justifiably sees itself as the main target of the Iranians, is leading this process. The Saudis know well that the true goal of the Iranians in the Arabian Peninsula  is the two holy cities of Islam – Mecca and Medina. Ever since the Ibn Saud family took over the Hijaz 90 years ago, the king boasts that he is “the Custodian of the Two Holy Places” and uses this as the basis of Islamic legitimization for his rule. A Shi’ite takeover of the Peninsula, which was stolen by the Sunnis, will turn back the wheel of history to the middle of the Seventh century, to the days of the Caliphate of Ali bin Abi Talib, the fourth caliph. Even now, the Shi’ites dream of returning Islamic hegemony to his family. The Saudis view Shi’ism as a kind of heresy.

The Saudi push for some kind of unity in the Peninsula was declared in January 2012, when the emergency summit of the Gulf states met to discuss the Iranian threat in light of the developments of the “Arab Spring” and their ramifications for the stability of the Gulf states. In this summit, which took place in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, Saudi King Abdullah had this to say to the attendees (my comments are in parenthesis – M.K.): ”We are meeting in the shadow of a challenge that demands that we wake up, and at a time when we must unify our forces and our voices.” The king declared to his listeners that there are threats to the security and stability of the Gulf; and though he did not mention the source of the threats, there was no doubt to whom he was referring. He called to the leaders, his neighbors, “to rise (above the disputes) to the necessary level of responsibility that is required of them, and since the attendees were all part of the (Islamic) nation they must support their brothers (the Syrians) in order to rescue them from the bloodshed (of the Syrian regime, which is supported by Iran).”

King Abdullah added:

“Our accumulated history and experience have taught us not to be satisfied with just talking about our situation and leaving it at that, because he who acts in this way will find himself at the end of the line and will be lost. And since this is not acceptable for any of us, I request from you to progress from this phase of cooperation to the phase of unification as one entity; this will remove the evil and bring goodness.”

There is no expression more severe than these religiously charged words in diplomatic Arabic language that can be used to convey a message about Iran. The fact that Iran was not explicitly mentioned does not detract from the strength of the words. It must be assumed that behind the scenes, sharper, less diplomatic, and more explicit expressions toward Iran were heard.

The anxiety of the Gulf states was exacerbated with the provocative visit of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in April of this year, to the island of Abu Musa, one of three islands that the United Arab Emirates claim, but that Iran took over in the days of the Shah. This island is located in the Strait of Hormuz, opposite the shore of Abu Dhabi, and the military base that Iran established on it could serve the Iranian forces if they try to block the Strait. The visit triggered a wave of severe verbal responses by the UAE, and Iran responded with a wave of foul statements against the Gulf States. This response is important because it created a very bad atmosphere and high tensions between the two sides of the Gulf. It is worthwhile to mention that the Arabs call the Gulf “The Arabian Gulf”, while the Iranians insist on calling it “the “Persian Gulf”, and whenever an Arab leader says “Arabian Gulf,” the Iranians become upset and call in the ambassador for a scolding.

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About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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