Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, for long the top source of tension in the region, have come under scrutiny on Monday amid renewed calls by the Gulf states on the international community to deal seriously with those programmes as a prerequisite for peace and stability in this vital region.
The war in Yemen is one of longest running conflict in the Arab world that could have ended long ago. But Iran’s involvement in the war through its continuing military support to the rebel Houthi militias has prolonged the war. Since the start of the war in 2015, Iran has been sending heavy arms to Al Houthis including medium and long-range missile and drones in violation of United Nations resolutions.
Saudi Arabia and Oman, during a high-level meeting on Monday aimed at finding ways to end the Yemen war, condemned Iran’s “destabilising actions” that prolonged the war and the suffering of the Yemeni people. For the war to end, the two countries said: “It is necessary to seriously deal with the Iranian nuclear and missile dossier.”
The call is significant because it is jointly issued by Oman, a key mediator in negotiations to end the war for the past 6 years. Oman knows first hand the ins and outs of the Yemen war. Therefore, the world, which has been pushing to end the conflict, needs to listen carefully to what these key states say.
The call to deal with Iran’s secret nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes coincided with probably the first explicit and credible report that Tehran has come closer than ever to fuel a nuclear weapon. According to a report issued last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency and analysed by an expert group, Institute for Science and International Security, Iran will be able to produce in a month enough material to fuel a single nuclear weapon.
The UN finding, the most damning so far, contradicts Iran’s long-time claim that its nuclear programme is a peaceful one. And it must force a rethinking of the terms that are being negotiated in the Vienna between Iran and the West that are aimed to revive the nuclear deal.
The talks, and any potential agreement, will not yield substantial results unless both programmes, nuclear and the ballistic missiles, are included in the deal. Secondly, Gulf states need to be part of the talks. They are the ones impacted by those programmes and Iran’s hostile actions in the region.
The Biden administration, which seems eager to re-join the nuclear deal, has been misreading the region since the US president’s inauguration in January. The Afghanistan pull-out debacle is the latest example. Washington needs to listen to its historical allies in the Gulf.