Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gulf states quietly give Israel the nod on Iran attack

For the moment, the speculation of an increased threat of military strikes is based on tougher comments by Israel and the West in advance of the IAEA report.

In the latest statement, Israeli President Shimon Peres said "the possibility of a military strike on Iran is more likely to be realized than the diplomatic option."


"I would put it this way: The Gulf states, some of them, would like Israel to be more active against Iran, though they would never say it publicly," said Meir Litvak, a regional expert at the Dayan Center think tank at Tel Aviv University.

For many in Israel, the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran is framed in the starkest terms.
Israel is widely believed to have the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Mideast -- although it refuses to either confirm or deny that -- and an Iranian bomb would sharply reorder the balance of power and be seen as a direct challenge to Israel's survival.

In a BBC interview aired Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Iran's actions could open "major nuclear arms race" in the region and give Tehran increased leverage over Mideast affairs. Barak said that "paralyzing" sanctions could be enough to pressure Iran, but that "no option should be removed from the table."

"We live in a tough neighborhood," he said. "No mercy for the weak."

The Gulf's views on Iran are generally shaped by decades-old perceptions that the Shiite-led Islamic Republic seeks to weaken the Sunni monarchs and sheiks ruling from Kuwait to Oman. But the levels of worry vary greatly.

Oman maintains close ties with Iran as co-overseers of the Strait of Hormouz at the mouth of the Gulf, which is the passageway for about 40 percent of the world's oil tanker traffic. Energy-rich Qatar, meanwhile, seeks to build more commercial links with Iran, including a deal last week that could allow state-run Qatar Airways to operate flights within Iran alongside the sanctions-battered Iranian passenger fleet.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's main power center, appears most eager to tighten the pressure on Iran.
Its leaders have repeatedly accused Iran of trying to destabilize the Gulf Arab states, including claims of encouraging Shiite-led protests for greater rights in strategic Bahrain. Saudi officials also have not tried to publicly counter the U.S. claims that Iranian agents were linked to a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

In one of the most repeated snippets from leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, Saudi's King Abdullah in 2008 urged a U.S.-led attack against Iran to "cut off the head of the snake" and halt Tehran's nuclear program.

Saudi and Israeli policies also have crossed paths at times in the Arab Spring, with each shaken by the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and hoping the Syrian protests against Bashar Assad's regime weaken the Iranian influence in the country.

Still, some analysts remain highly skeptical whether Saudi Arabia and its allies would give a nod to an Israeli attack, which could open a wider conflict in the Gulf and possibly choke off crucial oil exports.

"Yes, the Arab and Persian mutual antipathy is legendary. But the question is whether any Gulf state would go to the extreme of supporting an Israeli attack on Iran," said Ehsan Ahrari, a political analyst based in Virginia who taught security studies at the National Defense University. "The Gulf sheikdoms have to think very hard on this issue."

you can watch the interview here

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