Like us, the current American administration is absolutely convinced that terrorism cannot be eliminated without restraining the Iranian regime as war on terrorism begins with targeting the latter. We don’t need to convince American national security administration officials of that as they are already convinced of this.
However, the question remains how can Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries help this US administration, and benefit from this harmonious position, to prevent Iran from interfering in their affairs and stop interfering in our region. How can they convince the American administration to pressure the Russians to give up on Iran?
Now that Obama’s catastrophic phase has come to an end, Russia is the only umbrella protecting Iran’s direct presence on the ground in Syria and Iraq. Challenging the Iranian regime is an objective that can be achieved during this phase of US-Gulf relations during which a common position has evolved on confronting the country. This headline poses a question: Can President Donald Trump, through his good relations with Russia, convince the latter of abandoning Iran?
Columnist Eli Lake asked this question in an article published in Bloomberg in January. According to Lake, this is difficult considering that relations between them, i.e. between Russia and Iran, has become stronger since 2015 in terms of Syrian developments.
Challenging the Iranian regime is an objective that can be achieved during this phase of US-Gulf relations during which a common position has evolved on confronting the countrySawsan Al Shaer
Iran allowed Russia to use its military air bases to shell Syrian cities under the excuse of fighting terrorism. Iran also bought missiles from Russia. Some questions raised on the matter by former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul are quite logical as they have their justifications.
McFaul asked: Why would Russian President Vladimir Putin give up on Iran? What deal can Trump offer to Putin to give up on Iran, at least when it comes to Syria? Will the US buy Russian weapons, which Iran is buying? Or will Arab governments buy them?
McFaul added that Trump can help reduce Iranian presence in Syria by promising to ease economic sanctions on Russia – sanctions which were imposed due to its practices in some European countries. I think we must focus on besieging “Iran’s agents” in addition to looking for ways to convince allies to give up on them.
It is no secret that Gulf countries are living through a good phase of relations with Trump after Obama’s eight lean years in power. Gulf countries, which suffered during these eight years when the former US administration supported Iran, must use this opportunity and carry out a US-Gulf counter strike against Iran’s agents which Obama administration nurtured.
We must do so while taking into consideration that we only have four years. This is the age of the presidential term in the US. If Trump wins another term, then we will welcome this but preparations must be made on the premise that we only have four years.
War against agents
We must seek help in our war against Iran’s agents and work to restrain them, just the way Bahrainis approached it. As a result, the US took measures terror outfits. There was a list of terrorists available, and former administration was aware of it, including their bank accounts, but ignored it deliberately.
All Arab terrorist organizations which are supported by Iran must be brought to book. This is where effective joint action with the US in the next four years comes. This cooperation must also be linked to the war against other Arab terrorist organizations affiliated with the Sunnis, i.e. ISIS and al-Qaeda. This is more beneficial than just acting to pressure Iran to exit Arab areas or pressure the Russians to abandon Iran.
Action must be taken on two fronts. This is where the role of internationally moving toward the East comes. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has recently been on a tour to strengthen relations which have been neglected for years. Gulf leaders must strengthen these ties as well by making similar tours.
These relations must be strengthened in addition to making efforts to sideline the Iranian regime. However, focusing on pursuing and restraining Iran’s agents in the region, such as Hezbollah, the Popular Mobilization, al-Ashtar Brigades and other groups and individuals that fund them, is more useful considering the short time we have.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 5, 2017
Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer.