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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

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04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more
More from this category

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

23 June 2019  

Strategic implications of the 'deal of the century' and the…

on Palestine-Israel

Aisling Byrne interviews Abdel Bari Atwan Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ (DoC) - whether in its actual or conceptual form - is ushering in a new strategic era, providing cov...

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14 June 2019  

Postponed: Unveiling of Trump's 'deal of the century' frozen as…

on Palestine-Israel

Touted by its architects as the ‘deal of the century’, US president Donald Trump’s plan for Palestine and Israel has had to again be kept hidden as Israel heads back to elections a...

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23 October 2018  

Jamal Khashoggi, small spark for a large fire

on Saudi Arabia

By Hassan Aourid Until last Saturday, I was hopeful that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was not more than a case of c...

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19 October 2018  

Khashoggi murder: Killing dissent even from within

on Saudi Arabia

The gruesome murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was designed to be a clear and firm message for Saudi dissidents, and reflected th...

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08 July 2018  

As Hudaida falls to Saudi-Emirati coalition, peace for Yemen seems…

on Yemen

The recent and ongoing Saudi-Emirati offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida will render UN special envoy Martin Griffiths’s ‘new’ solution to the five-year-long Yemeni crisis...

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18 May 2018  

Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Dilemmas of Transformation in Saudi Arabia

on Saudi Arabia

By Madawi Al-Rasheed Introduction The dominant narrative through which many observers understand Saudi Arabia depicts a progressive and modernist leadership struggling to gra...

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27 April 2018  

Chaotic Yemen: The deconstruction of a failed state and regional…

on Yemen

by Helen Lackner Yemen remains in the grip of its most severe crisis ever: the civil war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh ...

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12 December 2017  

How the Saudis Escalated Yemen Struggle Beyond All Control

on Yemen

By Justin Podur Yemen is a small, poor country in a region empires have plundered for centuries. This civil war is a local struggle that has been escalated out of control by the a...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more

30 July 2019  

The December 2018 revolution and Sudanese professionals in the diaspora

on Sudan

WE LEFT SUDAN In drovesIn the late 80’s and 90’sIndeed, my generation of educated Sudanese professionals are scattered around the globe(Out of 200 medical graduates from Khartoum ...

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29 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

By Zeenat Adam 17 July 2019 Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts per...

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17 April 2019  

Bashir falls but the security apparatus maintains control

on Sudan

Since the military ouster of Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, early on Thursday, 11 April, after three months of protests, different military factions have been jos...

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16 April 2019  

Haftar's march on Tripoli

on Libya

Khalifa Haftar’s 4 April announcement declaring his march on Tripoli, and the subsequent attack on the Libyan capital by his forces, threaten to gravely impact the a...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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26 September 2013  

Kenyan hostage crisis: The desperation of al-Shabab

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the...

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23 January 2013  

French military intervention will add to Mali’s problems

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle east Centre   The north of Africa was plunged into yet another international conflict with France’s invasion of Mali on Friday, 11 January. Without im...

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23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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30 May 2011  

Pakistan-USA relations in the post-Usama era

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmad The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces was supposed to have been a landmark triumph that would bring peace and stability to the r...

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13 December 2010  

Kashmir and Obama's Indian appeasement

on South Asia

By Mohammad Abdullah Gul Obama's recent jive with school children in Delhi symbolises the nature of the new relationship that is emerging between India and the United States of Am...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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Potential of Gulf states to influence US policy

By Kenneth Katzman

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been loyal and crucial allies of US policy in the Gulf region for over three decades. Some Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have been pillars of US Gulf policy since the end of World War II. Furthermore, the Gulf states have fully supported all US interventions in the region in which their interests matched those of the United States. The 1991 Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein is one such example.

Perhaps more significant is that the Gulf states have even supported the United States in cases where the outcome of US intervention might threaten GCC interests. They supported Operation Iraqi Freedom (in March 2003) which aimed to remove Saddam Hussein from power, making bases and facilities available but not supplying any actual forces. The GCC states provided this logistical and material support (although publicly opposing the action as an unjustified war on an Arab state) even though they knew that ousting Saddam would inevitably lead to an Iraq dominated by the majority Shiite Arab Muslims.

 

GCC logistical support for Operation Iraqi Freedom also demonstrates the limits of GCC influence over US policy in the region. At the time of the US decision (from late 2002 to 2003) to remove Saddam militarily, none of the GCC states was agitating for a US invasion of Iraq. A March 2002 visit to the region by then US Vice President Richard Cheney was intended to elicit the views of some of the GCC states on any US effort to invade Iraq. Statements by Gulf and other Arab leaders during the visit indicated that they had told the vice president that Saddam was well contained and was no longer a threat to the region, and that US policy should focus on resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. Implicit within those sentiments was the opposition of the Gulf states to Iraq's likely emergence as a Shiite-run state likely to be sympathetic to Iran. And that has been the outcome, in large measure, although Iraqi voters in provincial and then national elections in 2009 and 2010 have largely rejected extensive Iranian influence inside Iraq. However, the lessons of these examples are that Gulf state influence over major US national security decisions involving the Gulf region is inherently limited.

 

Iraq Policy

We will likely see key and major decisions regarding the Gulf region being made by the US over the next three years. First and foremost will be the decision on whether to fulfil US President Barack Obama's stated timetable – which is enshrined in the 2008 US-Iraq 'Security Agreement' – to withdraw the remaining US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. As of 1 September 2010, there are approximately 50 000 US forces in Iraq, but Iraqi leaders have been unable to form a government more than six months after that country's 7 March 2010 general elections, and high-profile violent attacks in Iraq have continued throughout much of 2010. If the violence escalates, it is likely that Iraq and the United States might renegotiate the Security Agreement to permit a US military presence beyond 2011 to back up Iraqi forces and continue training them.

The Gulf states fear a return of sectarian warfare in Iraq. If their fears are realised, it will almost certainly result in a return to the streets by Shiite militias armed by Iran. However, it is highly unlikely that the Gulf states will have a major influence over what is decided between the United States and Iraq. Any mutual agreement for US troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 will almost certainly be a product of a joint US-Iraqi discussion, and will be based on whether or not Iraq can be secured by Iraqi forces alone.

However, it can also be argued that the GCC states will not seek major influence over a US decision about the latter's post-2011 presence in Iraq. Even at the height of the sectarian conflict in Iraq – from 2006 to 2007, this conflict did not spill over or threaten the vital security interests of the GCC states. Contrary to the expectations of some experts, the GCC did not intervene significantly to help their Sunni Arab brethren during this period of strife.

 

Iran Policy

In terms of US-GCC planning and cooperation, policy on Iran is far more complicated than is policy toward Iraq. In the first instance, decisions about war and peace in Iraq have already been made. On Iran, almost every option imaginable is still 'on the table' for consideration.

It is clear that the GCC states – which are well within striking range of a wide variety of Iranian retaliatory options – would prefer to prevent the emergence of a nuclear armed Iran without a US or Israeli resort to armed force against Iran. The United States, in repeated statements by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, have also stated that the use of force against Iran's nuclear programme would likely produce major unintended consequences and would not necessarily achieve the long-term objective of suppressing that Iranian programme.

The issue, for the United States, the GCC states, Israel, and others is: are the effects of a nuclear armed Iran worse than the effects of taking military action to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. On this point, there is fertile debate within and among all countries concerned. For now, the United States and the GCC states appear to have reached similar conclusions: that an attack on Iran is a highly undesirable option, and that any decision on such an option is to be deferred until Iran's nuclear intent and capabilities become clear and are too far advanced to be amenable to those options now being employed.

For now, in an environment in which the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to find no evidence that Iran has diverted nuclear material for enrichment beyond 20 percent (as in its early September 2010 report), the United States and the GCC states do not believe that the situation is at 'crisis' level. That perception is enhanced by the view that there is an emerging global consensus to impose increasingly strict economic sanctions against Iran. Between July and September 2010, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia, and South Korea all imposed sanctions on Iran that were far more comprehensive than had been expected, even though doing so hurt the business prospects of their companies. Iran's economy has yet to feel the full effects of these measures, but Iranian officials have already conceded that these new sanctions will constrain their ability to develop a liquefied natural gas sector, for example. The assessment of the United States and its allies is that current policy towards Iran has started to affect the political and foreign policy calculations of Iran's leaders, and should be given additional time to produce a change of position on Iran's nuclear enrichment program. This growing sense of optimism about the potential success of economic sanctions against Iran has also, temporarily at least, forestalled Israeli agitation that Iran's nuclear programme must be stopped almost immediately, and militarily if necessary.

Yet, there is still a question of whether the GCC states would back US military action if the US decided that a nuclear Iran was too threatening a scenario to be permitted. The UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said in July 2010 that his country would rather back a strike on Iran if no other options succeeded than see Iran become a nuclear state. His comments were considered to reflect the thinking of a good portion of not only his government, but of the other GCC governments as well. However, the GCC states will not, by themselves, come to a conclusion on when sanctions and diplomacy have run their course as options. Rather, the GCC states will carefully examine the US decision-making process and will almost certainly back any decision that the US makes. They will make available the facilities that are currently being used by the United States for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for a military mission against Iran. Further, if there is a decision to take action, the GCC states will ask the United States for all possible missile defence and counter-terrorism defences to brace themselves for Iranian retaliation.

A decision to allow time for sanctions and diplomacy to produce a satisfactory outcome does provide the GCC states with significant opportunities to assist US policy. They are in a position actually to improve the prospects for this policy track to succeed by implementing UN and US sanctions that have been imposed on Iran. For example, a new US law signed on 1 July 2010, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), imposes sanctions on energy companies that supply Iran with over one million dollars worth of gasoline, including aviation fuel. Even before enactment of the legislation, many of the major gasoline suppliers in Europe had stopped supplying Iran. However, reports began to surface that small refiners in Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE were attempting to make up the shortfall. US officials subsequently began talks with these countries and their energy industries to try to encourage cooperation with the US effort to cut gasoline supply to Iran. Such measures are part of the US strategy to create economic and political pressure within Iran for a change of Iran's position on the nuclear issue.

The GCC states are also in a position to facilitate US strategy by cooperating to demonstrate to Iran that its nuclear programme is counterproductive – that is, to show Iran that its programme will not deliver absolute security but will, instead, make Iran less secure. This has begun to be demonstrated to Iran though a programme called the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD). The GSD envisions a major round of new arms sales to the Gulf, focusing heavily on an integrated missile defence system and sales of advanced combat aircraft and naval systems. Many of these sales have already begun and more are planned, including a reported major purchase of US-made F-15s by Saudi Arabia. The UAE has purchased the most advanced US missile defence system available – the Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system, although it has not been delivered as yet.

The GCC states are, furthermore, in a position to head off war with Iran by helping the United States try to slow down Iran's nuclear progress. Much of Iran's nuclear programme relies on obtaining technology and materials from abroad. The UN sanctions that have been imposed since 2006 prohibit sales to Iran of virtually all technology that it could use. Iran is well-known to have an active procurement apparatus in Dubai to buy such equipment in a manner that bypasses the sanctions. The United States has been working with UAE authorities to try to shut down UAE firms that are knowingly selling advanced technology to Iran, but such an effort requires vast resources to ensure effectiveness. The United States has sought a more proactive approach from the UAE, in which it uses its own law enforcement resources to exercise constant vigilance against illicit Iranian procurement. However, the UAE's results, to date, have been mixed, and a provision of the US CISADA law does provide for tightening of US export controls to countries that are allowing technology to leak to Iran. The UAE was a clear target of this provision in that law.

The US and the GCC states might encounter a major rift in the event that any or all of the GCC states decide to try to achieve a nuclear weapons capability to counter an Iranian capability. Thus far, the United States has supported a peaceful nuclear programme in the UAE because the UAE has agreed to strict safeguards that would prevent its use for a weapons programme. Should the UAE, alone or in concert with its GCC allies, decide to abrogate such controls, and to build a countervailing nuclear programme, a rift is likely to emerge between the United States and the GCC states. A multiplication of nuclear programmes in the Gulf region is certain to lead, eventually, to miscalculation and possible nuclear use. The United States will forcefully attempt to persuade the Gulf states to shut down any nuclear weapons programme, and to cooperate with a US containment strategy against Iran, within a US security umbrella. The question of a United States security umbrella has been raised several times by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including during her 2008 presidential campaign, and is likely to form a major underpinning of US strategy if Iran becomes a nuclear state.

 

* Dr. Kenneth Katzman is an expert with the Congressional Research Service of the United States of America, and a senior analyst of African and Middle East affairs for the Library of Congress. He wrote this article, however, in his personal capacity

** This article is published in terms of a partnership agreement between the Afro-Middle East Centre and the AlJazeera Centre for Studies

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16 September 2019  

An Evening With Ramzy Baroud - Journalist /…

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22 July 2019  

Sudan Seminar: Sudan struggling for democracy resisting…

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14 June 2019  

Conference on Migration that AMEC co-hosted with the…

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