بازدید 975

Persian Gulf Security Order After Iran – Israel Direct Conflict

The direct attacks of Iran and Israel against each other indicated that both sides were leaving the conflict in the grey zone and showed the possible high cost of an open war.
کد خبر: ۱۲۳۹۷۳۵
تاریخ انتشار: ۰۸ خرداد ۱۴۰۳ - ۱۴:۵۹ 28 May 2024

By Javad Heiran-Nia

This is a conflict that could turn into a full-scale war under other circumstances, having serious implications for the security order of the Persian Gulf region.

What stands out in Iran’s interpretation of the regional order is Israel’s growing presence in the region and the normalization of relations between the Persian Gulf Arabs and Israel. Tehran’s concern in this regard stems from the greater convergence of Persian Gulf Arabs with Israel: international developments that cast a shadow on regional ones.

Furthermore, observing China’s growing activities in the Middle East, Washington has put the strategy of containing China on its agenda, which has significant implications for the Persian Gulf region. According to this strategy, regional allies of the USA would play a more significant role in securing the region. On the other hand, Israel’s entry into the region’s security mechanisms would prevent the formation of a power vacuum that could be filled by powers such as Iran.

Therefore, Israel was moved from the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) to cooperate more closely with the Arabs regarding Iran’s and its allies‘ threats in the region. CENTCOM’s connection with the Persian Gulf countries can strengthen the mutual military, intelligence, and operational relations of the involved parties.

The normalization of relations with the Arabs and Israel’s military presence in the region in the form of CENTCOM, along with bilateral security and military agreements with these countries with the support of the United States, are a part of Tel Aviv’s measures to confront and contain the Islamic Republic. These actions are also in line with Washington’s desired order in the region.

The establishment of a joint air defense system with the participation of Israel and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and under the guidance of the United States, which would be ideal for the convergence of the Arabs of the Persian Gulf and Israel, is also framed on this strategy. This system bypasses Iran’s capabilities and, if implemented, would strengthen the relations of the Persian Gulf countries with Israel and the United States, in complete contradiction to Iran’s interests. The formation of such a system would mean that the USA would remain a ‘security integrator’ for these countries, creating a kind of ‘balance deficit’ to the detriment of Iran.

After Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel in April 2024, a coalition of the USA, Britain, France, and Jordan helped Israel in destroying these missiles and drones. The United States played the leading role and showed Israel’s greater dependence on the USA in defense matters. The USA reaffirmed its commitment to defending Israel, thereby underscoring the resilience of their alliance.

The joint interception of 99 percent of Iranian missiles and drones not only demonstrated Israel’s air defense capabilities but also proved the highly effective and smooth military cooperation among the participating parties. The Joint Response, a benchmark for future military cooperation among NATO members and their allies, has been a key experience for participants and a strong signal to their adversaries of what the West is capable of if it has the political will.

On the other hand, it appears likely that the UAE and Saudi Arabia also shared intelligence with this coalition. Arab nations capitalized on their role in intelligence sharing, bolstering their image while safeguarding their own interests.  This indicates the formation of an integrated defense system in the region under US leadership and the participation of Israel and several Arab countries. However, the formation of this defense system also has a number of problems.

For instance, the Arabs of the Persian Gulf are trying to remain neutral and stay away from possible direct conflict between Iran and Israel or Iran and the United States. Riyadh’s distance from the bombing of Houthi targets in Yemen by the United States and the United Kingdom shows the country’s commitment to preventing de-escalation with Tehran.

However, by being members of this integrated defense system, GCC members are more involved in the security mechanisms of the region, with the presence of Israel.

The increased risk of American–Iranian high-intensity conflict across the region has accelerated the rapprochement between the Gulf states and Iran, especially Saudi Arabia, who are keen to avoid becoming trapped in the middle. The restrictions on US military use of Emirati airspace, as well as the meeting between Iran’s President Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman at the margins of an emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, offer two examples. In contrast, none of the Arab countries in the region has followed Iran’s call for sanctions against Israel, and neither has Saudi (or Gulf) investment in Iran been realized yet.

As it has been said, UAE and Saudi Arabia, under the pressure of the USA, have been forced to participate in countering Iran’s missiles and drones against Israel. This shows the difficult task of the Persian Gulf Arabs in maintaining distance from Iran and Israel in a regional conflict.

Furthermore, it became obvious that the Gulf Cooperation Council members which have already normalized ties with Israel do not have the leverage to convince Tel Aviv to reduce tension. Therefore, we might conclude that the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf should instead manage their relations with Iran.

It should be noted that if there were no rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran,Saudi Arabia would be much more anxious than it is at the moment, and the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar with the USA to intercept Iranian missiles and drones would probably be much riskier.

As part of their vision for a post-oil future, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia seek to serve as trade and business hubs that connect multiple regions of the world. Focusing on achieving economic diversification and long-term prosperity at home, GCC countries seek stability within their borders and throughout the wider region.

On the other hand, Iran’s massive missile and drone attack on Israel sent a message to the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, showing how vulnerable they could become to Iran and its proxies in a potential open military conflict. Furthermore, Iran’s motivation for firing drones and missiles at Israel was not just deterrence. Tehran sought to send an important message to its neighbors about the range and accuracy of its weapons.

Furthermore, Iran’s attack on Israel sent a message to the GCC countries that their alliance with the United States cannot be a deterrent against Iran.

On the other hand, the USA’s support for Israel in Iran’s attack showed how strategic its relations with Israel are: Washington’s relations with the Arabs of the Persian Gulf cannot even be compared to its security guarantees towards Israel.

However, US military support to Israel was limited to defensive operations, and Washington announced that it was not willing to participate in a large-scale offensive conducted by Israel against Iran. The announcement of this position by Washington, which had no role in Israel’s attack on Iran and the massive attack on the military base of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) at Kalsu Base in Iraq, is an indication of this issue.

Tehran views enhanced coordination within the axis of resistance and the damage it has inflicted on the USA, Israel, and the West as significant triumphs. Iran has also made progress in expanding its diplomatic clout in the Middle East through a series of high-level meetings with Arab officials and leaders. Nonetheless, although relations are improving, deep mistrust remains and GCC financial flows to Iran have yet to materialize.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia remains highly suspicious of Iran and the long list of Tehran-aligned Arab non-state actors with a history of hostility toward the kingdom.

Despite the fact that the Saudi government welcomed the calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and criticized Israel’s behavior in Gaza, the Saudis are still interested in improving relations with Israel and pursuing the Abraham Accords along with a cease-fire in Gaza. Moreover, it is not unlikely that Saudi Arabia and Jordan will use their support for Israel against Iran as a playing card to persuade Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza and the end of the war. Since Riyadh has called Israel’s commitment to the formation of an independent Palestinian statea precondition for the normalization of relations with Israel, any further comprehensive integration between the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, depends on the results of the Gaza war and Israel’s commitment to the formation of an independent Palestinian state.

One of the main concerns for policymakers in Riyadh is related to the unknowns of how the various Iran-backed groups in the ‘Axis of Resistance’ may act if regional tensions get out of control and how their behavior may affect the security and geopolitical interests of the GCC members. Such factors severely test the de-escalation between Saudi Arabia and Iran by increasing regional tensions.

In contrast, Iran’s long-term strategic position has arguably deteriorated. This is due to the termination of nuclear negotiations, the threat of tighter enforcement of US sanctions, and deteriorating relations with friendly neighbors. Moreover, Iran’s attacks created new international support for Israel, including from Arab countries that, despite being critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, supported Israel’s military response to Iran’s drone attacks.

Conclusion

Persian Gulf Arabs are pursuing their economic development visions with momentum. Thanks to their oil income, they have become important international players. In a world order based on ‘great power competition,’ they place themselves in the middle of conflicts to avoid their consequences. They follow the same logic in the conflicts between Iran and Israel or Iran and the USA in the region. Therefore, while following the process of normalizing relations with Israel, they are also following the improvement of relations with Iran so that they are not harmed by a possible conflict in the region. The Gaza war and the direct conflict between Iran and Israel showed to what extent this strategy was able to protect them from regional conflicts.

Source: khayrion

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