Gulf countries who always feel threatened by Iran have been assured by Britain of its support against any â€œaggressive regional actionâ€ by Teheranas the two sides agreed on a strategic partnership to deepen ties.
“”I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and to the wider Middle East,”” British Prime Minister Theresa May told leaders of six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in at their summit in Bahrainâ€™s capital Manama earlier this week. She stated that the UK would work with the Gulf states to counteract Tehranâ€™s â€œaggressive regional actions.
Her statement sounds excellent for the region, particularly as it comes alongside an actual commitment of a military presence and assistance to Gulf nations in building up their defense capabilities.
But observers are sceptical about Britainâ€™s assurance. â€œWe must not forget the realities on the ground that may have resulted in this sudden British warming up.Nobody anticipates that the UK will completely cut ties with Iran, particularly given that the two countries have only just re-established political tiesâ€, Saudi based daily Arab News commented.
Furthermore, it said there seems to be a vast contrast of views within the British government between May â€” who criticized Iran and lauded Saudi Arabia for its visionary leadership â€” and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who criticized Saudi Arabia, and seemingly blamed it alongside Iran for the regionâ€™s turmoil, during at a conference a few days ago in Rome.
Theresa May told the rulers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprising GCC that Iran nuclear agreement was “”vitally important for regional security.””
The leaders in a joint statement issued after their summit emphasized that Iran should abide by its nuclear agreement with the G5+1 in July 2015, and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to apply an effective mechanism to verify the agreement is put in place.
According to the statement, the leaders said they “”oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilising activities””. Britain and the GCC agreed to a ‘strategic partnership’ that would foster ‘political, defence, security and trade’ ties, while ‘developing collective approaches to regional issues’.
They expressed their determination to accelerate efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the means of their delivery, as well as advanced conventional weapons, by enhancing national controls on proliferation-sensitive items and technologies.
As part of strengthening military cooperation, Britain will maintain a presence ‘throughout the Gulf’, the statement said, including through British defence staff to be based in Dubai. The statement said Britain and GCC countries were “”committed to continue working towards a sustainable political resolution in Syria””, where President Bashar Al Assad “”has lost all legitimacy and has no role in Syria’s future.””
It called for Assad’s backers including Russia and Iran “”to support a meaningful end to the violence, sustained humanitarian access and an inclusive political process”” in Syria.
They said the solution to the situation in Syria is an enduring political settlement based on transition away from the Assad regime to a government representative of all Syrians. They agreed to increase regional pressure on the Assad regime and its backers by heightening financial disruption and economic constraints.
They affirmed strong support for the Syrian opposition and emphasised that armed groups must comply with international humanitarian law and minimise civilian casualties.
The leaders exressed their commitment to assisting the Iraqi government and the International Global Coalition in their fight against Daesh., With regard to Yemen, both the GCC member states and the UK emphasised the need to resolve the conflict peacefully through political dialogue and negotiations facilitated by the UN.
The GCC member states and the UK strongly affirmed the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a just, lasting, comprehensive peace agreement that results in an independent and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, based on the Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions.
On Lebanon, the leaders welcomed the election of a new president, called on all parties to strengthen Lebanese state institutions, and emphasised the need to fight all terrorist groups operating in Lebanese territory, which threaten Lebanon’s security and stability. On Egypt, the GCC and the UK committed to support co-operation between the IMF and Egypt.
Regarding Libya, the GCC leaders, according to the concluding statement issued after their summit in Manama, reiterated backing to UN efforts to ensure security and stability.
During her speech, the British PM said the two sides would study liberalising trade as Britain prepares to leave the European Union after the shock referendum vote to quit the bloc. “”I want these talks to pave the way for an ambitious trade arrangement”” after Brexit.
May was the first woman and first British leader to address a GCC summit, as Gulf countries deepen ties with major powers beyond longtime ally the United States. In May last year, France’s President Francois Hollande became the first Western head of state to attend a GCC summit. US President Barack Obama followed in April this year, seeking to reassure Gulf about US overtures to Iran.
(M. Shakeel Ahmed is a Delhi-based independent journalist. He has had a long stint with the PTI news agency and also served for nearly a decade as its West Asia and the Gulf correspondent. The views are personal.)”