‘Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Gulf dignitaries in Bahrain last month. But in reality, everywhere you turn, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia to Egypt, you now see Iranian leaders shattering longstanding taboos by meeting cordially with their Arab counterparts.
The Gulf has moved away from American arguments for isolating Iran. American policymakers need to do the same.
The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are accommodating themselves to Iran’s growing weight in the region’s politics. They remain key parts of America’s security architecture in the region, hosting massive US military bases and underwriting the American economy in exchange for protection. But as Saudi analyst Khalid al-Dakheel argues, they are no longer content sitting passively beneath the US security umbrella and want to avoid being a pawn in the US-Iranian struggle for power. Flush with cash, they are not interested in a war that would mess up business. [complete article]
The smart people are getting out of Jerusalem next week. Traffic mayhem is assured as George Bush and his entourage, about 800 souls, guarded by thousands of Israeli police, are whisked about in a fleet of armoured vehicles, complete with a bespoke helicopter brought in to fly the president to Capernaum, in northern Israel, where Jesus chose his apostles.
What is less clear is what Mr Bush will bring his hosts apart from gridlock. The man who hoped his invasion of Iraq in 2003 was going to bring peace to Palestine and democracy to the Arabs has not exactly over-achieved. So the main aims of the tour he begins on January 8th are more limited: to give a nudge to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks he launched in Annapolis in November and to shore up America’s allies against Iran. [complete article]
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said relations with the US could be restored in the future.
In a speech to students, he said the time was not right to restore ties, but if it were ever in Iran’s interests he would endorse such a move. [complete article]
The Lebanese opposition group Hezbollah has said openly that it will not allow a president to be elected unless it gets a third of the cabinet seats.
This would give Hezbollah and its allies a veto over key decisions. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, blamed the US for obstructing a solution to Lebanon’s political crisis by opposing such a move. [complete article]