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Opinion

Will Iran’s diplomatic offensive harm Israel?

Iran cannot offer the Gulf states the benefits that Israel can.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi arrives in Venezuela, June 12, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi arrives in Venezuela, June 12, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Salem al-Ketbi.
Salem al-Ketbi
Salem al-Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst and a former candidate to the UAE’s Federal National Council.

Lately, Iran has been actively engaged in diplomatic maneuvers on both local and global fronts, achieving notable advancements in its relations with various regional actors. This prompts inquiries into the extent of these Iranian maneuvers’ impact on Israel and its strategic concerns.

Hussein Amir Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, embarked on a four-nation tour to Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE. He hosted the Saudi foreign minister in Tehran. Iran is striving to reopen discussions on its nuclear program, with media reports suggesting the potential for an intermediary agreement facilitated by Oman between Iran and the U.S.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi undertook a noteworthy tour of Latin America, preceded by visits to China, select Central Asian nations, Syria and other countries. The common thread binding these endeavors lies in their manifestation of vigorous Iranian diplomatic initiatives aimed at bolstering their power bases in the context of Iran’s ongoing power struggle with the U.S. and Israel.

One pivotal query at hand revolves around the consequences of these Iranian maneuvers on Israel. Will Tehran manage to impede or halt the plans for normalizing ties between Israel and Arab and Gulf states? Scrutinizing the available evidence and indicators to find a response to these inquiries reveals multiple influential factors.

First and foremost, the ongoing improvement in Iran’s relations with its neighboring nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council cannot adequately substitute for the existing and potential ties between certain countries in the region and Israel.

This is primarily due to the foreign policy orientations pursued by these countries, which aim to reconstruct their foreign policies based on fresh principles characterized by diversity and inclusivity, catering to their ambitions and competitive objectives. Such objectives necessitate the establishment of a broad network of cooperative relationships that encompass all existing and potential regional as well as international partners.

The second aspect pertains to the strategic cooperation frameworks and issues that exist between Arab and Gulf countries, including those that have already ratified peace agreements with Israel, as well as potential future participants. These frameworks encompass crucial sectors and domains that play a vital role in the economies of these nations.

These aspects cannot be substituted by an Iranian alternative framework, particularly in key domains such as information technology, cybersecurity, agriculture, space and others.

Additionally, it remains untested whether Iran’s intentions are genuine, and the prospects of rapprochement or resumption of relations across the Gulf are not unprecedented. Numerous previous endeavors have faltered, in which Iran failed to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of amicable neighboring relations, revealing a substantial disparity between actions and rhetoric concerning regional cooperation.

Moreover, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with other influential regional and international powers, are acutely aware of the radical transformations unfolding within the global system. The rules governing this system are undergoing a process of reshaping, driven by ongoing strategic interactions.

Adopting policies that curtail the capacity of these nations to safeguard their rightful position and genuine influence in international relations poses considerable challenges. This underscores the significance of fostering cooperation and engagement with all countries and influential actors regionally and globally, without exception.

Consequently, these nations cannot subscribe to the concept of blocs or alliances, whether in aligning with Iran at the expense of Israel or embracing an alliance with Israel against Iran. Such approaches contradict the notion that Iran’s diplomatic expansion will inherently undermine Israel’s status and regional efficacy.

However, it is crucial to emphasize that the logic of strategic interests will strongly shape the trajectory of these nations’ relations, be it with Israel or Iran, on the condition that the latter adheres to the established frameworks and overarching principles predating the recent advancements in cross-Gulf relations.

The fifth aspect revolves around the Iranian political rhetoric, which tends to market the newfound atmosphere in Tehran’s relations with its Gulf counterparts under an “Islamic” guise. It presents an “Islamic coalition” against the “Zionist entity” and serves as a counter-penetration strategy against the peace-oriented Abraham Accords and other elements of Iranian political propaganda that contradict the actual reality.

The improvement in relations between Tehran and its Gulf counterparts does not emanate from an “Islamic cooperation” framework, nor do these counterparts seek to forge ideological or political alliances or alignments of any sort. The crux of the matter lies in Iran’s ambition to champion an idea stemming from its aspiration to lead the Islamic world. Subsequently, this discourse translates into pressure tactics and the pursuit of interests in its interactions with major international powers.

One indication of the “Islamization” of the regional geopolitical landscape finds expression in the statements made by Raisi. He remarked, “The adversaries of Muslims, with Israel at the forefront, are perturbed by the progress of bilateral and regional cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

Raisi conveyed this message during his meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in Tehran, asserting, “The Zionist entity is not merely an adversary of Palestinians, but poses a threat to all Muslims. The normalization of relations between certain nations and this entity not only compromises security but also runs counter to the collective sentiment of the Islamic ummah.”

The sixth aspect pertains to the ongoing scrutiny of all developments in Iran’s relations with its regional neighbors. It becomes apparent that Iran’s conduct, stances, and regional policies, which have contributed to escalating tensions and regional hazards, have undergone minimal substantive changes aside from mere verbal rhetoric.

Perhaps there has been some relative easing in certain matters like Yemen, although without any concrete breakthroughs or substantial contributions towards their resolution.

In this context, it is noteworthy that Mohsen Naziri, Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has raised concerns about the perceived “fragility” of security and safety measures in the nuclear power plants established by the UAE during a recent agency meeting. He highlighted the potential environmental and regional stability threats stemming from this situation, despite Tehran’s acknowledgment of the UAE’s diligence and caution in constructing the peaceful nuclear power plant in Barakah.

The bottom line is, the dynamics shaping Iran’s relations with its Gulf counterparts are progressing along a distinct trajectory as perceived by the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. These developments do not clash with any relationships these countries forge with other regional actors, including Israel.

These countries are determined to defuse all tensions that jeopardize regional stability by either mitigating the crisis with Iran or pursuing peace accords with Israel. Consequently, it appears improbable that the ongoing geopolitical transformations in the region will impede the atmosphere of peace and advancement that has emerged or is attainable between Israel and its Arab and Gulf counterparts.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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