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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Gulf States Hesitant on Iran Threat

Council on Foreign Relations

January 14, 2008
Author: Greg Bruno

President Bush maintained a steady message of alarm about Iran during his weekend Persian Gulf trip. On January 13 in Abu Dhabi, he called on Arab allies to confront “the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.” His decision to expedite the sale of high-tech satellite-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia (JPost) is an example. But as the U.S. president continues his tour of the region, the message from Arab allies regarding Iran is more subtle, nuanced, and cautionary.

Washington has pressed for containment of Tehran’s regional influence—including alleged support of militants in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza—as well as its uranium enrichment plans. Israel supports Washington’s efforts to use diplomacy, sanctions, and even military action to reduce Iranian influence in the region. The recent altercation between U.S. warships and Iranian speed boats in the Strait of Hormuz was viewed by the White House as further evidence of the Iran threat (AP). But some Gulf Arab allies on Bush’s itinerary have cautioned against any escalation. “We don’t want our region to be an area of wars and bloodshed” (AFP), a member of Kuwait’s parliament said in advance of the presidential visit. Leaders in Bahrain, including the state minister for foreign affairs, stressed the importance of bilateral ties with Washington but also sought to “steer the region away from the specter of war” with Iran.

President Bush could also face resistance to tough action on Iran during his trip to Saudi Arabia, which started on January 14. Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom will welcome Bush’s opinions on Iran, but would oppose military confrontation (Telegraph). “Saudi Arabia is a neighbor of Iran in the Gulf,” the prince said.

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