Your Royal Majesty and Highnesses,
There is a mighty storm gathering over the Arabian Gulf that if we continue to ignore will catch us by surprise with devastating consequences. However unsettling the Arab Awakening may be, it is nothing compared to the real and present danger Gulf States face from a neighbour that purports to be our friend while all the time is scheming against us behind the door. To my mind, this neighbour is in many respects an even worse threat than our historic foe Israel whose enmity towards Arabs is well-known and upfront.
For all its denials, the Islamic Republic of Iran has expansionist ambitions which its ruling clerics keep close to their chest. The clerics have been patient and subtle putting into motion a slow, insidious agenda to dominate the Gulf and the entire Arab region. For years, while we Arab patriots were sleeping, Iran has been flooding GCC states with rabble rousers, spies as well as sleeping cells, whose members use their stay in Gulf countries to increase their wealth while masquerading as our friends. Many are Arabs in name only; many have taken the nationalities of Gulf States while all the time their loyalties lie with Tehran.
Tehran is even more dangerous now that it has forged strong links with a number of formerly exiled Iraqi politicians who today hold high office within the Iraqi government, including Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki who lived for eight years in the Iranian capital and regularly visits his Iranian counterpart. The current diplomatic contretemps between Iraq and Kuwait should be taken as a warning of things to come. Iraq is threatening to prosecute Kuwait over its construction of the Mubarak Al Kabir Port on Boubyan Island, which Baghdad claims will be detrimental to its shipping routes — and will also take its case to the UN. This has frightening echoes of Saddam's era. Iraq has no right to interfere with any facility situated on Kuwait's sovereign land.
Dancing to Iran's tune
Worse, the Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq that holds allegiance to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has links to the Revolutionary Guards' Al Quds Brigade, has warned it will use surface-to-surface missiles to target workers building the port. It seems that Iraqis have failed to learn lessons from the 1991 Gulf War; either that or they're now dancing to Tehran's tune. It's ironic that Washington's drive to impose democracy on Baghdad has backfired on America; Iran has been the beneficiary of that ill-thought-out war without having to fire a shot.
The Iraqi prime minister's reaction to the Syrian regime's brutal attacks on dissenters is certainly out of tune with the rest of the Arab world as the New York Times reported under the headline "Iraqi leader backs Syria, with a nudge from Iran". Apparently, Al Maliki has "urged the protesters not to ‘sabotage' the Syrian state…"
I fear that when all US troops have finally withdrawn from Iraq, the day will come when Iraq and Iran will form a federation whereby their collective oil and gas reserves will give their union unprecedented geopolitical clout. In that event, it's feasible that such federation could have the capability of closing our airspace, blockading our shipping lanes and preventing traffic from reaching us overland. Once we are isolated even our highly trained, well-armed militaries will be rendered ineffective. I'm saddened that Iraq's pure Arab land has been gifted to Tehran by its own political leaders and pro-Iranian militias. Our Iraqi brothers — both Sunnis and Shiites — who love their country, the Cradle of Civilization, are pleading with you to rescue them from Iran's tentacles. I believe it's time for you to recognise that neither Persia nor Iran has ever been our ally and, accordingly, take the decision to keep the clerics influence from our shores, beginning with the cutting of all diplomatic links and inter-Gulf consultations on a unified strategy for dealing with Iran.
Iran's instigation of Shiite unrest in Bahrain and its loud condemnation of Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries for rushing to help quell the uprising at the request of the Bahraini government should be seen as a wake-up call for the GCC to take action. We must face up to the unpleasant reality that we're on our own now that so many of our Arab allies are facing problems of their own which may take decades to resolve. In comparison to the volatility in the Middle East and North Africa, GCC states are relatively stable, which is why I believe the headquarters of the Arab League should be relocated to Saudi Arabia (or another GCC member country) and its Secretary-General should be a Gulf national who isn't afraid to take hard decisions. We can no longer afford to remain neutral during these tumultuous times and we must ensure that we have a say in everything that affects our own neighbourhood.
Sirs, our people rely upon you to preserve their independence but I would respectfully request you for the sake of your own children and grandchildren to act decisively before it's too late. With the Arab world in disarray, you, Your Royal Majesty and Highnesses, are the only ones who can protect the house of Ebrahim from the Persian wolf in sheep's clothing baying outside the door.
Khalaf Al Habtoor is a businessman and chairman of Al Habtoor Group.