MSM tends to report the events in Egypt, Yemen, Tunsia, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya as if they were all the same. The same MSM, both western and Arab tend to paint the involvement of the EU, UK, and the US as purely self interests related to oil. In both cases to do so does not create an understanding of the real complex and in all cases, country specific issues. Nor does these same western countries relate the events in the region to events at home in their own countries.
Let’s address the “oil” issue first. The truth is that the entire global economy, including the side-liners like Russia, China, and India economies, must have a SECURE supply of oil. If anyone of these nations were really “after the oil”, Kuwait would be a US territory as well as Iraq. That is not the case in either country and the US pays MARKET price to these countries for their oil, just like everyone else. The same could be said of the european countries as related to Libya. So from my perspective and vantage point, the oil imperialism argument, primarily kept in the mainstream by Iran, is just a red herring argument.
When we look at the divisions within the Arab countries, Iran is the nation, fomenting the issues. What most Westerners fail to grasp is the fact that while Iran is primarily a Shia nation, they are NOT Arabs! Iran is Persian. One only has to look deeply at how Iran has constantly be meddling in the affairs of Iraq to understand why there is more concern in the Arab world over the activities of Iran than there are concerns about Western interference.
That is not to say that the Arab countries are all that secure with their relationships with the US and EU, but these concerns are more related to the consistency that may be demonstrated by the US and the EU and NATO related to assisting in the security and protection of Arab countries in relationship to Iran. these concerns are well founded and have resulted from the fickle manner in which both the US and NATO have acted in the past. These concerns were voiced again when US Secretary Gates visited Saudi Arabia last week.
The GCC countries are especially worried about the Iranians , their aggressiveness in the region, and their ability to disrupt the flow of oil to the world. GCC foreign ministers on Sunday condemned Iran’s “blatant” interference in the State of Kuwait’s internal affairs, accusing Iran of “planting espionage networks on [Kuwait’s] territory” to undermine the country’s security and stability and the interests of its citizens. In a statement issued at the conclusion of their extraordinary one-day meeting, the foreign ministers commended Kuwait’s security bodies for uncovering the sleeper cell of spies believed to be working covertly on Iran’s behalf. The ministers also affirmed their support for all the measures taken by the State of Kuwait to protect its national security.
The statement further noted that the senior government officials had expressed concern at what they called “continuous Iranian interference in the domestic affairs of the GCC countries, by conspiring against those nations’ national security … and instigating sectarian sedition between their GCC countries’ citizens, independence, principles of good neighborliness, international laws, the Charter of the UN and OIC.” The foreign ministers also welcomed the return of calm and stability to the Kingdom of Bahrain, praising the spirit of the Bahraini people who it said had sought the country’s higher interests.
Bahrain has the capabilities and wisdom to dealing with its internal affairs, said the ministers, whilst stressing that they “strongly condemn the Iranian interference” in Bahrain’s affairs. The senior government officials also stressed the legitimacy of the deployment of Peninsula Shield forces in Bahrain, which they indicated was compliant with an earlier defense agreement binding the six GCC countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and UAE.
The GCC ministers further condemned the Iranian Shura Council’s national security and foreign affairs committee’s statement which claimed that Saudi Arabia’s policy was “playing with fire.” The Iranian statement, which also called on Saudi Arabia to pull out forces from Bahrain, “is a hostile position and is a provocative interference in the internal affairs of the GCC countries,” the ministers warned.
On Yemen, the foreign ministers voiced great concern over the deterioration of security and the growing divisions in the country, a matter that would undermine interests of citizens and economy as a whole. They called on all parties in Yemen to launch dialogue to ultimately reach reform and bring about social stability. The ministers said they respected the wishes and choices of the Yemeni people, adding that they would be establishing contact with the Yemeni government and opposition to address the conflict
Also on Sunday, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nuhayyan said that there is a “huge contradiction” between Iran’s words and its deeds towards the GCC countries. “The espionage networks that were arrested in the State of Kuwait are strange [things to] happen from a neighboring country that always claims to have good neighborly relations with us,” Sheikh Abdullah told a joint news conference with GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayyani that followed the ministers’ meeting.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are firmly behind the Bahraini King’s request to send Peninsula Shield forces to the Kingdom, he reiterated. Concerning events in Yemen, meanwhile, Sheikh Abdullah said the GCC countries would be contacting the government and opposition parties there in a bid to resolve their conflict. Al-Zayyani on his part said that there are currently numerous challenges facing the GCC countries, further reiterating the member states demand for “other countries not to interfere in the GCC countries’ affairs.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s caretaker foreign minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Al-Sabah told a Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas via phone following the meeting that the talks, as well as the concluding statement, “reflect the collective spirit of the GCC,” indicating that “GCC Foreign Ministers insisted on the common united fate of GCC countries,” whilst also noting that the Bahraini subject and current events in Kuwait were equally addressed during the meeting and stressing the cohesion of the GCC as a single unit. “The GCC proved to be capable of meeting its responsibilities, and showed that to the security of member states…meaning a threat to any GCC state is regarded as a threat to all countries of the region”.
Meanwhile, in the same article, Al-Qabas, also quoted GCC insiders as saying that the foreign ministers had agreed during the meeting that all the member states’ capabilities would be utilized to confront any potential threats against any member state. The sources further indicated that the senior government officials agreed on the principal measures that should be taken to face any Iranian threats, adding that an agreement was also reached to hold further top-level GCC meetings featuring senior security and defense personalities within the next couple of days to discuss the type of measures to be taken and the strategies to be utilized for their implementation. The insiders further asserted that the GCC foreign ministers were unanimous in stressing the importance of eliminating “suspicious individuals” in member states, while ensuring that this process is not based on group identity. Other sources also revealed that an agreement was reached to “reinforce internal fronts” in the member states in order to confront any attempts to incite sectarianism.
Given these issues and the economic situations in each of the countries now experiencing internal conflicts it is crucial for the US, the EU, and NATO to develop a consistent and strong policy to support it’s vital Arab partners. Players like Russia, China, and India are sitting on the sidelines looking for opportunities to exploit the failures of the US and EU policy in the region. So far, their decision to remain on the sidelines, and even tacitily support Iran seems to have traction. The politicians in the US and EU better get their act together before oil goes to $200 or $300 per barrel. Commit to their Arab partners and support them unconditionally.