Differences in Gulf’s stances and ambiguous positions

Jameel al-Thiyabi

Published: Updated:

There have been different Gulf positions regarding the Iranian nuclear deal and the US’ decision to withdraw from it. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain expressed a common position in separate statements while three other Gulf countries took different positions in which they are trying “to hold the stick from the middle.”

The tripartite against Iran

What is the Gulf states’ stance from the US’ decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal between Iran and the West and the P5+1 and to reintroduce sanctions on Iran? This is a question that needs to be asked due to the nature of the challenges posed by Washington's decision and Iran's hostile behavior towards the region. But does the entire region share the same position against Iran’s interferences and threats?

Absolutely not, and there are many reasons for that. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were clear and bold in their support of President Trump's decision without any equivocation or prevarication of any kind.

These three countries are the ones who have been targeted the most by Iran’s interferences, conspiracies and attempts to besiege them and to expand influence and hegemony. For the UAE, Iran still occupies its three islands in a flagrant violation of international law and good-neighborly conduct. Iran has even refused arbitration in the International Court of Justice for settling the issue.

As for Bahrain, not a day goes by without an Iranian attempt to destabilize security, stability and independence.

As for Saudi Arabia, let us recall how Iran recruited Houthi terrorists to launch Iranian ballistic missiles into sovereign Saudi territory and planned infiltration attempts that culminated in the death of the intruders. This is in addition to Tehran’s attempts to spread hatred and chaos by recruiting those who share its revolutionary ideology and doctrines.

Qatar’s equivocation

Qatar’s reaction to Trump’s decision was quite funny as it was not void of attempts to look witty via a verbose statement. Qatar mentioned that its priority is for the region to be free from weapons of mass destruction, which is old news as Qatar cannot criticize the US decision but it also cannot criticize the “honorable” Iran which provides it with expired food products. Qatar will not rise from this paralysis in its policies as long as it sticks to its harmful and immature attitude that culminated when the anti-terror quartet severed relations with it on June 5, 2017, and put it under international scrutiny.

As for the Sultanate of Oman, its position was characterized with the usual "tactical ambiguity.” We can summarize the statement of the Omani Foreign Ministry commenting on the American decision that the Sultanate settled with "following up on these developments.” There is no doubt that Oman was not expecting this decision, especially since it had facilitated the nuclear agreement with Iran by hosting the preliminary secret negotiations between Tehran and Washington before taking the initiative to Vienna, which resulted in signing the agreement in 2015.

After studying the US decision, Kuwait issued an official statement that it understands the US move. These three positions can be classified as a stance which “holds the stick from the middle.” These three countries do not want to lose Iran because they are intimidated by it and wish to keep their interests intact with Tehran. At the same time, they are ready to condemn Iran in every statement issued at a Gulf or Arab summit.

‘Loopholes’ in the deal

I think that this completely cancels the concept of the common destiny and unity to confront threats, interferences and challenges. It means that some Gulf states never cared that Iran, after signing the agreement in 2015, saw that this gave it full freedom to dominate the Arab region, not just the Gulf, in order to fulfill the illusion of reviving the Persian empire. Iran’s destruction in Yemen and infiltration of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon reflected its horrific understanding of the nuclear agreement. Iran operates based on the belief that once it finishes spreading its network of influences across the Middle East, it will join “the nuclear club” and will only have to destroy the region and the world with the nuclear weapons it aspires to have.

None of the three countries, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, made any mention of the loopholes in the nuclear deal. The agreement does not even address Iran's evil policies to destabilize the world and did not address the ballistic missiles program that targets innocent people and civilian institutions in Saudi cities. The biggest loophole was that the nuclear deal did not plan what should be agreed upon after the expiration of the deal’s duration.

Clarity of Saudi position

We saw how in Qatar’s case, this schizophrenic thinking led to Doha’s bloody involvement against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain by supporting the Yemeni agent Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, providing him with the coordinates of the coalition forces in Yemen and spreading extremism.

It is certain that political ambiguity is not the style of Saudi Arabia, because the kingdom has nothing but its announced interests with the international community. The kingdom is ready and prepared for all the surprises that may come from "schizophrenic" positions. When Saudi Arabia sensed Iran’s harm and threats, it severed relations with it. It even confronted it to protect its security and stability and defend its Gulf brethren. Saudi Arabia will not accept harming its people’s dignity and values. It will not accept a war on its security and the attempts to move around international sanctions. As such, Saudi Arabia has gained international and regional appreciation for its firm, clear, decisive and uncompromising policies which are shared with honest brothers like the UAE and Bahrain.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Jameel al-Thiyabi is a Saudi journalist who has held different editorial positions at al-Hayat and Okaz newspapers. Al-Thiyabi holds a master’s degree in diplomacy and media from the UK. He has spent over 20 years in the media, working first with Asharq Al-Awsat in London and then with LBC TV.

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