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Mordechai Kedar: Syria, Iraq, the Gulf, and the Iranian Octopus

Demonstrators march in support of Bashar al-Assad's regime

Demonstrators march in support of Bashar al-Assad's regime
Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash90

Iran is increasing its hold on the Gulf by emphasizing its control of the three islands that it conquered in the days of the Shah, Lesser Tunab, Greater Tunab, and Abu Moussa. Last week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Iranian base that was established on the island of Abu Moussa, provoking strong reactions in the Gulf states, which view it as the first steps in Iran’s bid to takeover the Straight of Hormuz and other islands in the Gulf.

The fear of Iran harbored within the citizens of the Gulf states has increased in recent times as a result of the success Iran has experienced in buying time in the negotiations with the West over its nuclear program. Increasingly, the states of the Gulf are convinced that the West, which is now very deservedly seen as weak and flimsy, will not succeed in deterring Iran from taking practical steps against the Gulf states. Lately a discussion was held in the Kuwaiti parliament on the question of whether Kuwait should object to a possible future conquest of Kuwait by Iran or perhaps it would be preferable to surrender and accept it, because in any case, the West will not repeat the war of 1991, when Kuwait was liberated from the claws of Saddam. Needless to say, Kuwait does not not possess even the most minimal ability to stand up to an Iranian conquest; Iran would need only a few hours in order to conquer Kuwait, and would encounter little resistance.

However, Iran has no need to take dramatic military action against its Arab neighbors West of the Gulf. It would be enough to take “soft” steps in order to bring them under the umbrella of its hegemony: elimination of an Emir here, buying off an Emir there, frightening a sheikh in one principality, a terror attack in a banking center, bringing down an office tower, a fire in an oil installation, sinking a ship of the Coast Guard or an act that bears Iran’s signature will suffice to frighten the smug billionaires into thinking that it’s better to cooperate quietly with their Eastern neighbor who has become Iraq’s “landlord”. This would be far preferable than Iraq’s fate, as they would be able to hold on to the billions of petro-dolalrs in their accounts in Switzerland or other tax shelters.

The rich people of the Gulf have never been great fans of their countries, because had they really wanted to preserve the character of their societies they would not have flooded the principalities with millions of foreign workers and business people, who have subsequently turned the citizens of the states of the Gulf into small minorities in their own states. And if they have sold out their countries in order to increase their personal wealth, why would they rebel against Iran? They have never had a real military force capable of defending them, and the security forces in the Gulf states are composed of foreign soldiers, usually from Bangladesh or Balochistan. Will these foreign soldiers fight and put their lives on the line for a state that is not theirs?

The only state in the Arabian Peninsula that perhaps may have some success in coping with Iran is Saudi Arabia, however, the operational skills of its military forces are dubious since they have never fought a real war on a national scale. From time to time in the past they were involved in border disputes with Yemen or Iraq, and performed an aerial bombing here or an artillery shelling there, but never in an actual war. It is reasonable to assume that without massive support from the United States, even the Saudis would not survive a war with Iran. A takeover of Saudi Arabia is especially attractive for the Iranians, because with Saudi Arabia, the holy places of Mecca and Medina would fall into their hands, and so the Shi’ites would again control Islam as it did in the days of the fourth Caliph, Ali Bin Abi Talib, the founder of Shi’a Islam. Plus, all the achievements of the Sunnis since the middle of the seventh century would be erased and it would be as if they never happened. And very sweet indeed would be the Persian revenge on the Bedouins, who left the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century and destroyed the Sassanid Persian Empire.

This geo-strategic balance between Iran and the Gulf, which is clearly tipped toward Iran, turns the Gulf into easy prey for the Iranian conquest machinery. The political and economic gains that would accrue for Iran from seizing control of oil reserves in the Gulf, together with those that are hidden in the ground of Iraq, are tremendous. Iran would become the controlling state of the greatest quantity of oil and gas in the world, something that would buy it the ability to play with the prices at its whim, in a way that could bring down states with poor economies like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. And in order to placate Iran, everyone could be offered as a potential sacrifice to the Ayatollahs, including Israel. Therefore, Iran, as it sees itself, does not need to attack Israel, because the West will shun the Zionist entity anyway, and abandon her to her fate, and she will certainly fall.

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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