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January 22, 2008

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Nick A.

I'm curious: could our recent Gulf of Tonkin-type incident in the Straits of Hormuz have anything to do with this phenomenon? I don't know what happened, but unless I'm mistaken we made an awful lot of fuss over it and then declared, essentially, that it was just a misunderstanding. You and many other commenters are much more informed than I am, but could it have been in part an attempt to scare our Arab allies and slow their rapprochement with Iran?

Gregory Gause

I would just caution against taking the tack too far. The Gulf states have to live with Iran and they know that. They are worried about US policy -- both about being too aggressive against Iran but also about leaving Iraq "too early" and leaving them to confront an Iran that has made Iraq a client state. This is structural -- weak states always worry that their protectors will drag them into conflicts and worry that their protectors will abandon them and/or do deals over their heads.

Thus, they are in favor BOTH of containing Iran and of engaging it. It is a sophisticated strategy (sophisticated is another word for "sometimes contradictory"). But it should not be read as some kind of openness to real security cooperation with Iran or as evidence that the Saudis and the smaller Gulf states do not view Iran with trepidation.

aardvark

Greg - I agree with that.. but the flip side, which I think matters, is that the US is going to have a really tough time putting on tighter sanctions (or launching a military strike, for that matter) with the Gulfies taking this tack.

Gregory Gause

No question. Agree 100%. I think a military strike is MUCH less likely after the NIE last month. Before the NIE, I thought there was at least a 50% chance of some kind of US strike on Iran before the end of 2008. Now, I think the chances are much below 50%.

Nick A

Agreed. To my knowledge, nobody assers that Iran can "flip" Saudi Arabia the way some optimists (Dennis Ross) were saying we could "flip" Syria a year ago or so. But there does seem to be a detente, which might work against our interests (sanctions, generally keeping Iran diplomatically isolated, etc.).

delmarva

An angle of this that's not mentioned so often is that the smaller Gulf states (esp. Qatar) are not overflowing with love for the Saudis, and are probably ok with Iran balancing the al-Sa'ud, so long as it doesn't get out of control. The smaller Gulf states, especially the UAE and Bahrain, also do a lot more business with Iran and have many more Iranian nationals living in their territory.

Martin Kramer

For once, I am in agreement with Lynch. See my Memo from Gulfistan. Of course, it knocks another pole out of the tent of the Annapolis "process," which was justified as the necessary finishing touch to the grand anti-Iran alliance. Another new Middle East down the tubes.

Suburban Sultan

One rule in Middle East diplomacy, right? You go where the crude is.

William deB. Mills

Very useful set of citations; would be great to have them in a Western language.

Ahmadinejad's interview was summarized by al-Jazeera in English--

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/54C9D595-2A99-421D-9D9E-13CB14097B88.htm--

and is discussed by al-Jazeera commentators in this video (in English)--

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAxr16XqapE.

He apparently avoided threats and spoke confidently about Iranian security vis-à-vis Israel. He also apparently condemned Israelis as terrorists, called for stability in Iraq, harmony in the Mideast, and resistance in Lebanon.

Does anyone know where to get a full transcript in translation?

Jason Hillman

Al-Watan reported that Denijad plans on going to visit Iraq within the next few months, as far as I know the Western media has not reported this.

http://www.alwatan.com.kw/Default.aspx?MgDid=592842&pageId=36

chris

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAxr16XqapE. - didnt load :S

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