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Countering Iran’s territorial expansion: Options for the Arab bloc

Hamid Bahrami

Published: Updated:

On 4th of November, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked the Saudi capital with a ballistic missile provided to them by the regime in Tehran. This aggression escalated the ongoing war of words between Saudi Arabia and the Iranian regime.

Even after four decades of the 1979 revolution, the world witnesses the cancer of Iran’s theocrats spreading across the Middle East.

The reality is that following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has started to rapidly annex Arab countries. Today, the Islamic world, particularly the Gulf Arabs, is faced with an unwanted, but likely confrontation with IRGC as it threatens their borders.

The Saudi foreign minister’s statement deeming the recent missile attack on Riyadh as an act of war by Tehran is a case in point. In regards to a Saudi response to this strike, the foreign minister said: “We will make the decision when the time comes.”

To avoid a direct military conflict, it is crucial to rebalance political and military power in both Iraq and Lebanon and to disrupt IRGC’s corridor

Hamid Bahrami

Looming shadow of war

In a recent statement, White House has condemned the Iranian regime's malevolent activities and has stated that the US stands with Saudi Arabia and all its Gulf partners against the Iranian regime's aggression and blatant violations of international law.

On the other hand, due to the Iranian regime’s dubious intervention and serious threats, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri announced his resignation in Saudi Arabia. To the perceptive political analyst, Hariri’s resignation came as no surprise because of Hezbollah’s past record of violating agreements and treaties.

In reality, Hariri fulfilled his responsibility as a Lebanese and it is now the duty of Lebanese patriots to follow his lead.

As the shadow of war hangs over the region, the White House and other Western officials including French President Emmanuel Macron have taken action to remedy the crisis. Both the missile attack and the crisis in Lebanon were discussed during President Macron’s unscheduled meeting with senior Saudi officials.

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A statement issued from the White House on Saturday revealed that both the US and French presidents agreed on the need to work with allies to counter the destabilizing activities of Hezbollah and Iran in the region.

Given IRGC’s dangerous plans for the region, the Iranian regime must understand that the political and military circumstances in the Middle East have completely changed since Hezbollah’s assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and its initiation of a war with Israel in 2006.

Unfortunately, the IRGC controls a long land corridor from Iran to Lebanon today. Moreover, the Iranian regime’s recent advances in Syria have encouraged Hezbollah to seize control of positions it had lost during the 2016 deal with Lebanese parties.

Targeting Iran’s proxies

There are several options with the Arab bloc for withstanding IRGC’s expansionism. Arab allies should target Tehran’s proxies in the region politically, economically and militarily. No one wants a real conflict between Iran’s regime and its Arab allies but as history teaches us few wars have ever been planned.

To avoid a direct military conflict, it is crucial to rebalance the political and military power in both Iraq and Lebanon and to disrupt IRGC’s corridor, even if this requires limited military action.

It now seems that the Gulf states are determined to take action as the Arab League held an emergency meeting at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss growing Iranian aggression and threats.

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The Secretary-General of the Arab League has drawn a red line for the regime in Tehran as he called that Iranian regime as seeking to be a “dangerous dagger” in the region, especially toward Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries.

A practical step by the Gulf allies could be to break off diplomatic relations with Iran. They should also make Tehran understand that threatening Arab countries would prove extremely costly. As they move forward, Gulf allies should disregard Russia and some EU countries’ policy of appeasement towards the Iranian regime.

One important fact that Arab allies should consider is that if the IRGC and its proxies win these existential battles, no one knows which country will be their next target.
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Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. Living in Glasgow, Scotland, he is a human rights and political activist, and works as a freelance journalist as his work covers Iran’s Middle East actions and domestic social crackdown. He tweets at @HaBahrami and blog at analyzecom.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.