Sunday, December 9, 2007

Gulf Countries speak out against military option against Iran

This is from AFP through Yahoo. Even though the Gulf States are concerned about growing Iranian influence in the region they are probably even more concerned about US military adventurism against Iran. The new intelligence estimate has done nothing to dampen the US ardour for painting Iran as the Great Satan in the region threatening Israel with annihilation--even though Israel has itself a nuclear deterrent!

Gulf countries speak out against military option in Iran by Ali Khalil
Sat Dec 8, 9:57 AM ET



Gulf countries, cautious about the nuclear standoff between the United States and Iran, signalled loudly at a regional security conference on Saturday their opposition to any military option against Tehran.

Washington, wrong-footed by its own National Intelligence Estimate in its accusations that Iran wanted nuclear weapons, has emphasised that no options have been ruled out in forcing it to end its nuclear enrichment programme.

The NIE on Tuesday said that Iran, which insists its current programme is for peaceful power generation, had halted a secret nuclear weapons programme four years ago.

"We want the military factor (of Iran's nuclear programme) to be eliminated," the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdulrahman al-Attiyah told AFP on Saturday.

"What we care for in the GCC is finding solutions that enhance security and stability ... and believe in dialogue as a way to solve the crisis," between the West and Iran, he said.

Gulf countries remain wary of Iran's nuclear ambitions but do not want to see its standoff with the West escalating into a military confrontation.

"We are not for the military confrontation option," said Attiyah.

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamed bin Jassem al-Thani went further, calling on Washington to engage Tehran in dialogue to reach a solution.

"Direct talks do not mean agreeing (from the start) with the other party," he told conference delegates on Saturday, among them US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Qatar, one of the key US-allies in the region, hosts the US army's Central Command which directed the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

But in a surprising move, it invited Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend a GCC annual summit on Monday, making him the first Iranian president to take part in a Gulf leaders summit.

"I don't think we can try to solve our problems through trying to seal Iran (off from) the region. They are a very important player," he said defending Qatar's decision.

He also reiterated that being "pushed into a military confrontation with Iran" would not be in the interest of the GCC countries.

Toby Dodge, a Middle East consulting senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the GCC fears of military escalation in the Gulf were justified.

"Iran would retaliate to any (US) military action and the Gulf region would be affected... I assume that their strategy is to support an active US policy to restrain Iran (on the nuclear front), but short of military action," he told AFP.

But he said that the GCC fears go beyond Iran's nuclear programme to encompass Tehran's "ambition for regional hegemony."

GCC countries are worried about "Iran's dominance in the region," agreed Mamoun Fandy, who is also an IISS senior fellow for Gulf security.

"Iran is winning in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Iran is winning the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt," he told AFP referring to Tehran's clout over Islamist movements in the Sunni-dominated Arab countries.

Qatar's premier echoed that same concerns in addressing delegates in the security conference, which was snubbed by Iran in the last minute, saying that it is "very important that nobody tries to dominate the region."

Iraq meanwhile welcomed the intelligence report saying it was "very encouraging".

"We think it will prompt Iran towards more moderation," Iraq's National Security Advisor, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told AFP.

Gates meanwhile reiterated Washington's view that Iran's foreign policy was a threat to the United States, the Middle East and all countries within range of missiles which he said Tehran was developing.



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