MIDDLE EAST

What Trump’s Saudi visit means for Iran

We hope to seize the opportunity provided by US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saudi Arabia to correct some concepts pertaining to security threats which confront Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and which are related to Iranian intervention in the region.

We agree with the American perspective that Iran has an expansionist project that’s a major threat to the region’s countries; however, resolving this security threat will not only be through strengthening our military defenses or forming military alliances like the NATO as Trump suggests. Iran will not think of using its army and launching a war against Gulf countries and that’s for several reasons.

The Iranians still remember the Iranian-Iraqi war experience and they’re well-aware of the GCC military capabilities. Iran knows that a global war would be launched against it by countries which are committed to defending their vital interests. More importantly, Iran knows that it does not need to take risks and bear losses when there are alternatives!

Now and then, it speaks out about ballistic and nuclear missiles and other destructive weapons but this is all for the sake of improving its negotiating position.

Strategic alliances are built on sustainable partnerships that achieve successes which future generations reap their benefits.

Sawsan Al Shaer

However, it does not do so to actually negotiate as this is merely a game which Iran is good at. It made use of this game for years as its war with Iraq taught it that the “fuss” which accompanies military activities is a million times more important than the “real extent” of what it really possesses.

It uses theatrical techniques to display its nuclear experiments. For instance, an Iranian military leader would make a provocative statement and attract the world’s attention which in turn speaks out against Iran. Then they engage in negotiations with it! This is Iran’s real aim. This is how it expands its geopolitical influence without losing a single soldier or firing a single bullet.

Threats to the Gulf

How does Iran threaten Gulf countries’ security without firing a missile or moving a tank? It does so via ideology. Yes, through ideology. It recruits local militias which consider Khamenei their supreme guide, believe he is an infallible human and pledge allegiance to him until the appearance of savior. Iran convinced these local militias in our countries to engage in what it described as a “sacred” war against their regimes. They’ve therefore become alternative armies through which Iran is active within Gulf countries.

What Iran spends on these militias is much less than what it spends on its own army; however it gains a lot of areas of influence through them and topples a lot more regimes using them than when using its army.These militias work in explosives which only regular armies work with, and they receive military training.

They are also on the payment lists of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. These militias cannot be confronted via a missile system or via a military alliance like the NATO. Security threats are now different with the presence of these militias; and the policy to confront them has been disrupted as a result. This is where we and the American State Department sometimes disagree.

Iran armed Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. It operated training camps for its followers from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in Iraq and smuggled dangerous explosives and weapons to them so they commit terrorist crimes in GCC countries and kill civilians and security men. It supported them logistically. Locally, it misled the public opinion to gain people’s sympathy with those involved in terrorist attacks.

Threats to the world

Internationally, it worked on covering their crimes and found someone to listen from the US State Department, sometimes someone from the remnants from the former administration as Iran still has a network of public relations there. They are active in the halls of these agencies and they launder money for terrorism. This threatens us more than Iran’s ballistic and nuclear weapons because this obstructs our attempts to strengthen security and stability. Therefore, we must resort to legal action to address this Iranian system.

We’re concerned over civil rights but many media outlets and news agencies neglected the facts on ground and instead listened to that Iranian system which worked on forging reality to serve a political agenda that supports the aforementioned militias and Tehran’s expansion.

This is where we sometimes disagree about understanding threats. What this Iranian system is doing is not about freedom of expression or peaceful gathering, as these rights are protected in our constitution. Iran wants to exploit this freedom to support terrorist militias and defy the law.

Strategic alliances are built on sustainable partnerships that achieve successes which future generations reap their benefits. They are built on understanding the other party’s worries. This is what we seek, and we can almost assert that this is what the American president and his administration, which are experienced in the region as they know it well, are thinking about.

This article is also available in Arabic

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Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer.

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Last Update: Monday, 22 May 2017 KSA 13:00 - GMT 10:00
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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