Truant Iran May Face Arab Gulf Sanctions

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That Iran figures in the list of seven countries whose citizens will not be issued visas for America under an order issued by US President Donald Trump on 25 January comes as no surprise. The other countries on the list are Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya, all of them known as rogue states in journalistic parlance.

Just like America, the Arab Gulf countries are also sick of Iran’s highly questionable and destabilizing activities in the region and its support for terrorist outfits across the Middle East, including Bahrain. And finally they have decided to act. The Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC countries encompassing Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are now considering discussions to impose commercial and economic sanctions on Iran. Dubai in the UAE in particular has been a regional hub of Iranian trade for decades.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, in a written statement in Parliament recently, said Iran would face a GCC embargo if it continued with its policy of regional destabilization. Tehran’s copybook lies heavily smudged on all pages. There were four seizures of arms and weapons – by American, Australian and French ships – including rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles, AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from vessels destined for Houthi rebels in Yemen between September 2015 and March 2016 according to Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet Commander who was speaking in an interview with The New York Times.

He said there was strong evidence of Tehran’s involvement in the shipments. In Bahrain, on numerous occasions, weapons caches have been seized in the areas dominated by people of Iranian origin. Iran is also known to back political and terrorist groups in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon using its nuclear capability as a point of pressure. For the record, “Iran continues to export its revolution and the concept is enshrined in its constitution in Article 154 and it tries to achieve this goal through hostile comments and speeches, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps train terrorists and supplies them with explosives, arms and funding,” the Bahraini Foreign Minister said. Hezbollah is Iran’s other arm in the Arab region used for training, smuggling weapons and providing logistical and political support to destabilising forces.

According to Shaikh Khalid, “If it doesn’t stop then we will work together with the world to isolate Iran. It [will] involve individual GCC countries, the GCC as a whole, using politics and diplomacy, financial and commercial means and the media.” Because of its subversive and harmful activities, including avowed attempts to destabilize Bahrain, attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulates in Iran, espionage bids in Kuwait and involvement with the rebels in Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia, the latter and Bahrain had already severed diplomatic relations with Iran and the UAE and Qatar have downgraded them.

The West may have come to an agreement with Iran by signing the nuclear treaty and lifting its sanctions and therefore can afford to be smug about its subversive activities but for the GCC, Tehran is a menace at its doorstep and must be dealt with in the only language it understands – sanctions again.

iran irgc exercises.
Iran IRGC exercises.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.