Iran General NewsArab Gulf states ponder what to do with Tehran

Arab Gulf states ponder what to do with Tehran

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ImageWashington Times: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not get an invitation to the annual summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a reversal from one year earlier when Iran was the surprise invitee.

The Washington Times

Leaders agree it shouldn't have nukes

Jumana al-Tamimi SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

ImageIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not get an invitation to the annual summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a reversal from one year earlier when Iran was the surprise invitee.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's absence from the GCC meeting in Oman reflects a new and difficult phase for the region as key Arab oil exporters and non-Arab Iran await the incoming U.S. administration, analysts say.

Several issues shadowed the Dec. 30-31 event, including Iran's nuclear program and accusations of Iranian interference in the region's affairs. But there were also divisions among Iran's Arab neighbors about how strict or lenient to be with Tehran.

"I believe there are red lines that all GCC countries agree on," said Mustafa al-Ani, a political analyst at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. "There is a consensus that Iran shouldn´t come out as a nuclear power. But how to deal with it is the issue. … Is it a regional problem or an international one?"

Apart from the summit, four GCC members – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – along with Jordan,Iraq and Egypt – met last month in New York with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany to discuss Iran strategy. Oman and Qatar did not take part for fear of being seen as part of an anti-Iran alliance.

"All the Arab Gulf countries are in a very sensitive situation" in dealing with Iran, Saudi political science professor Waheed Hamza Hashem said.

Mr. Hashem, from King Abdel Aziz University in Jidda, said Shi'ite Muslim Iran's relations with Sunni Muslim-dominated Gulf countries differ, depending on the size, influence and geographic location of the Gulf states.

For example, Iran has a security agreement with Bahrain, which has a large Shi'ite population. It also enjoys good relations with Qatar and close economic ties with the UAE, home to many Iranian expatriates.

But Iran and the UAE are at odds over three strategic islands that both claim and Iran controls: Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tumbs.

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