x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Iran's actions "not hopeful" for the region, analysts say

An American policy striking a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia is needed, some said

Dialogue between Iran and the Arab states seems far-fetched, analysts said on Sunday, after they spoke of the Islamic Republic’s confusing defensive and offensive strategies.

But trouble in the region continues to loom the longer instability reigns between both parties.

“We and Iran are natural components of this region and it’s certainly entitled to have a regional role proportionate to its interest, size and role,” said Dr Khalid Al Dakhil, professor of political sociology at King Saud University.

“The question is how can I have a dialogue with a state that uses militia as the backbone of its regional role?”

He said the militia posed the biggest threat facing countries in the region.

“What is even more strange is that Iran forbids the spread of any militia on its soil but it invests billions of dollars to establish, train and arm Arab and non-Arab militia inside Arab countries,” he said.

“We need to find out what Iran wants from this region and why it is investing so much in these militias.

"Iran doesn’t possess the force to invade an area as vast as the Arab world but the vacuum that exists here has allowed it to infiltrate Arab countries, establish militias in the region and focus on sectarian policies.”

Others said a lack of dialogue was the main issue at hand. “We hear each other all the time but we don’t listen to each other,” said Dr Mohsen Milani, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida. “I smell trouble for the region and I’m not as optimistic as I was two years ago, but I hope that by dialogue, we can prevent another war in the region because it would mean this entire region is going to be destabilised and [cause] a regional catastrophe.”

He said the key to more stability is an American policy that finds a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “If we try to isolate Iran, it becomes more dangerous. We need to understand that if there is another war, all of us would pay for it.”

Local analysts said Iran used its militias as tools to foster its own security. “How can we listen when we see that Houthi missiles are louder than the dialogue?,” Dr Sultan Al Nuaimi, expert on Iranian affairs and faculty member at the University of Abu Dhabi, asked.

Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said Iran had yet to decide what it wanted to be. “It wants to be both a revolutionary and a normal nation-state and that’s just not possible in the long-term,” he said. “Stability in this region will eventually come from strong states. Iran is sending a powerful revolutionary narrative to the region and that narrative is not hopeful for the region.”