By Iran Review
By Hossein Kebriaeizadeh*
One can daresay that there have been two junctures in the contemporary history of the Middle East, which have been greatly effective from various viewpoints, especially with regard to the region’s security. The first juncture was what happened in the year 2001 following terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, which caused the fight on terror to turn into the topmost security discourse in the Middle East region.
At that juncture, direct military invasion of Afghanistan and later on, Iraq, by the United States within framework of preemptive war put an end to Washington’s strategic confusion in the region, which had started since the beginning of the 1990s. In that period, the United States’ foreign policy saw some form of coherence, which led to domination of its clear and unequivocal priorities across the Persian Gulf region.
From the viewpoint of temporal conditions, that period was characterized by major changes with new actors entering the arena of regional developments, most of whom were non-state actors, which had a great impact on triggering unconventional developments across the region. During that juncture, the United States implemented its regional strategies in a unilateral manner and only minimal roles were assigned to regional actors by the hegemonic power. Under those conditions, the environment of the political game in the region changed into a forced hierarchy as a result of which not only regional actors became politically dependent on the United States, but that dependence became institutionalized from legal, normative, and ideological standpoints.
However, none of these far-reaching changes by the United States could help this superpower achieve its goals in fighting against terrorism in the Middle East. Dependent security arrangements, which were opposed by some other regional actors, including Iran, failed in less than two decades. Therefore, despite the fact that former leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was eliminated, the new arrangements failed to uproot extremism in the region.
Extremism, which seemed to have become inactive during that juncture, only waited for suitable conditions and those conditions were provided to Takfiri groups by the Arab Spring, developments in Syria and spillover of those developments to the neighboring Iraq. As a result, extremist groups like Daesh embarked on conquering land in those countries through support of certain regional actors.
Objectification of the fight against terrorism has been the most important blight, which has caused failure of all US efforts during past two decades for the reduction and control of extremism. The rising power of Daesh, its alliance with other groups and their operations in various parts of the world have raised issues related to security concerns of regional actors among which one can point to their inability to limit the theater of war, ambiguity of the threat, fluidity of the battleground, uncertainties about those involved in the war and diversity of weapons of war.
The success of Daesh during the past two years and absence of global consensus on how to defeat it clearly revealed inefficiency of regional and even global security arrangements for fighting against terrorism. In the meantime, countries which are rich, but lack enough power to defend themselves, will be facing more threats from this group. The most important examples in this regard are the littoral countries of the Persian Gulf. Although they avail themselves of a mechanism like the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, inefficiency of this mechanism has been proven beyond doubt even in classic wars. At the same time, to fight terrorism and such groups as Daesh, they need intelligence supremacy, agility and high effectiveness while these factors are lacking even in Western countries’ security arrangements.
In the meantime, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has such pragmatic members as Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman in its composition, will certainly not bow to Saudi Arabia’s totalitarian leadership in times of crisis and when facing overarching threats. As a result, the management method and mechanisms used by the GCC to deal with any confrontation, which have been created on the basis of imagined and intangible threats, will have to change.
In addition and from a psychological standpoint, the littoral states of the Persian Gulf, which have reached the conclusion that they will no longer have the United States’ protective umbrella as they had in the past, are not prepared to establish an effective security order by themselves.
Under these conditions, the responsibility of global community to fight Daesh seems to become more prominent. A combination of the United States’ diplomatic leverage and Europe’s pragmatism can both create necessary political and social infrastructure for fighting against Daesh in the region, and fill the void of strong security arrangements for the time being.
It must not be ignored that countries in the Persian Gulf region need to take full advantage of all their internal capacities in order to fight off Daesh-type extremism. It must also be noted that, despite all its animosity toward Tehran, Daesh has so far failed to carry out even a single suicide attack on the Iranian soil and this issue is indicative of high importance and special position of Iran in anti-Daesh security arrangements.
Since fighting Daesh in the Persian Gulf region would not be fruitful in the absence of help and cooperation from Iran, which has successful experiences in this regard, and since relations between Iran and member states of the GCC are now tense due to crisis in Tehran’s relations with Riyadh, Europe can work to provide grounds for security cooperation between Iran and the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council.
Tehran can help member states of the GCC in various fields from intelligence gathering with regard to extremist groups to formulating a strategy to fight such groups. For this reason and under conditions when the littoral states of the Persian Gulf face threats, it would be better for them to set aside differences, most of which are based on wrong mentalities, and move toward more cooperation and convergence with Iran.
Given the current conditions facing the littoral states of the Persian Gulf in the absence of effective security mechanisms in the region and in view of the sensitivity of these countries toward one another, they heed to obtain three elements of power balance, commitment to domestic reforms, and firm belief in multilateralism. Achieving this goal would need all these actors to change their attitudes and go beyond a purely realistic logic.
* Hossein Kebriaeizadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues