Iran has been stamping its footprints with increasing recklessness in the region. Recent attacks in Saudi and UAE waters suggest that Iran’s mischief-making has gone up several notches. Abandoning all concept of pursuing a stable diplomatic relation with its neighbours, Iran seems to thrive on creating and fermenting chaos and confusion through its proxies in the region.
But will that serve any purpose towards Iran’s goals of expansion or dominance? I have always suspected that Iran has been crippled by the advent of the mullahs at the helm of the country’s leadership. They seem to guide the country’s policies through religious rhetoric rather than pragmatic realism. Their covert support of mischief makers is well documented and has added nothing to the stability in the region.
In recent times, there has been a steady build-up of US forces in the region. Aircraft carriers, warships, B-52 bombers and US troop deployment suggest that Iran does indeed face a military response if it continues its nefarious activities. And yet the Iranian authorities do not seize the moment to engage in diplomatic overtures to calm the electrified atmosphere.
Have they not learnt any lessons from the invasion of Iraq? A country that was held in check before the bombs and cruise missiles began raining on them has now become a splintered haven for nationalist groups and terrorists. Its historic architecture, libraries, monuments all destroyed because war was seen as a better option to diplomacy. More than a million estimated civilians lost their lives and for many more their homes and their sanity.
Does Iran think that its neighbours would tolerate its continuous belligerence and interference into their affairs? The UAE has publicly affirmed that it will show restraint following attacks on oil tankers off its coast. Complaining about Iran’s bullying tactics, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said that “Iranian behaviour” was at the centre of problems in the Gulf region, expressing concern about Iran’s missiles and regional policies.
“We have been bullied by Iran. We have seen aggressive Iranian action in the region,” he said. He added that “we need to emphasise caution and good judgement. It is easy to throw accusations, but it is a difficult situation.”
Although he did not blame Iran directly for attacks on four vessels off the coast of Fujairah and Iran denied the attacks, intelligence from Washington suggested that Iran was perhaps behind it. In Saudi Arabia, following missile attacks on its soil by suspected Iranian loyalists, the Saudi cabinet affirmed its commitment to preventing the spread of regional conflict and ensuring that oil supplies remain uninterrupted. In a session chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, the cabinet released a statement saying that Saudi Arabia “will do everything in its power to prevent any war and its hand is always extended to peace,” adding that the government was committed “to achieving balance in the oil market and working towards its stability on a sustainable basis.”
Need for restraint
The Cabinet also implored the international community to bring sense to the Iranian regime and use all means to direct Iran away from spreading chaos and destruction. It is such recklessness that could easily push the whole region towards undesirable consequences. While restraint is the order of the day, it is not a blank cheque for Iran to continue its misadventures without being put on notice.
War is good business only for those selling arms and making profits at the expense of the suffering of millions. War creates refugees and untold human misery. War drives down investment in a region that is seeking to expand exponentially.
No one wants war or instability and now is the time for the people of Iran to say ‘enough is enough’ and wrest control from warmongering mullahs and bring their country up to par in the region. A bombed-up Iran will do them no good and the human toll that goes along with the conflict will not justify the belligerence of the Iranian government.
The Iranian government should understand the reality of the current situation and opt for diplomacy to defuse the electrified build-up. No more excuses. There is no more time for that.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena