Saudi Arabia has called for two extraordinary summits — one for leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and the other for Arab leaders — on May 30 in Makkah to discuss unprecedented tensions in the Gulf in the wake of Iran’s aggressive postures. With its economy reeling under reimposed US sanctions, Iran has made irresponsible threats to shut down the Strait of Hormuz where 30 per cent of the world’s crude oil passes through. Reacting to the threats, the US is sending an aircraft carrier and heavy bombers to the Arabian Gulf to ostensibly protect its assets and shield its Gulf allies from any attack.
A recent attack on four oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah followed by a drone attack on a Saudi oil facility have unnerved observers. Several US sources have alluded to the fact that Iran could have encouraged the attacks carried out by one of its proxy groups. These developments give rise to the speculation of an imminent war.
Kuwait has said it was prepared for the scenario of war and the US has pulled non-essential staff from Iraq, fearing a possible attack from Iraqi Shiite militias who work for Iran. ExxonMobil also evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield in neighbouring Iraq. Bahrain on Saturday warned its citizens against travelling to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return. The US Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to US commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution.
It is clear that the potential of an escalation is very high, but it is also clear that all the major players, including Iran, do not want a war. But because of skyrocketing tensions, it is incumbent that all parties exercise caution and restraint going forward. That is why the call for the meetings is critical to discuss, not only the current tensions but the Arab world and the international community’s responsibility to help them stay contained.
In the run-up to the meetings, several discussions have been taking place. On Sunday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman discussed regional developments in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a Saudi media ministry tweet.
“We want peace and stability in the region, but we will not sit on our hands in light of the continuing Iranian attack,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir said. “The ball is in Iran’s court, and it is up to Iran to determine what its fate will be.”