Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

The need for unity in the face of aggression

Emergency summit is a chance to show Tehran the error of its provocative ways

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir. John Thys / AFP
Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir. John Thys / AFP

After a tumultuous week and a series of provocative attempts to shake the very roots of the region’s stability, there has, thankfully, only been a war of words so far. But that in itself highlights the precariousness of a moment that could escalate dramatically. In typically sabre-rattling behaviour, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps announced an overhaul of its top brass, with new lieutenant commander Ali Fadavi warning “enemies” not to underestimate what it was capable of. “Threats are the factors to improve and become powerful,” boasted the IRGC commander-in-chief, major general Hossein Salami, who added the difference between Iran and its enemies was that Iranians were not afraid to die: “[The enemies’] limit is where their life is in danger, which makes them easy to be defeated.”

Contrast that with the response from Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir and his UAE counterpart Dr Anwar Gargash last week. They both urged “peace and stability”, with Mr Al Jubeir adding: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region, nor does it seek that”. But faced with the menace of a terrorist organisation, nor will Saudi Arabia act with its “hands bound”. In the past week, Riyadh has been attacked with drone strikes on two oil pumping stations, claimed by Iran-backed militias, while four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged off the coast of the UAE. As Mr Al Jubeir says: “The ball is in Iran’s court and Iran should determine what the path will be.”

No country in the region benefits from war. There have been enough conflicts in recent memory to leave an aversion for another lengthy bout of violence, at a time when regional alliances are being strengthened rather than torn apart. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz has rightly called for an emergency summit between GCC members and Arab nations on May 30 to discuss the attacks and their implications for the stability of oil markets and regional security. Now is the time to affirm those alliances. The actions of the past week have stemmed from a clearly rattled Tehran, under economic pressure and resentful of US sanctions and the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. Discontent is one thing, aggressive provocation another – and if regime leaders persist on this course of action, the entire region will be in jeopardy. War should never be the first option yet measures must be taken for countries to protect themselves and their people. In the face of a united front, Tehran must take a wiser course of action – for its own sake as well as for the region.

Updated: May 20, 2019 09:49 AM

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