Leadership: The Arab Plan To Stop Iran

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February 5, 2012: The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of the wealthy Arab Gulf oil states) is not waiting for the United States and other oil importing nations to take action in the event of an Iranian attempt to close off the entry to the Persian Gulf (the 6.4 kilometers wide shipping channel in the Straits of Hormuz). The GCC nations not only earn most of their income via oil shipped out through the channel (16 million barrels a day, most it from GCC members) but also get most of their food and other goods via freighters coming in. So for more than a decade the GCC has made plans to deal with the Iranian threat. The key here is coordinating the air and naval forces of the GCC members, and close cooperation with foreign (especially American) allies. The GCC weapons are more modern and numerous than what the Iranians have. Add in American, and other foreign forces stationed in the Gulf, and the Iranians are up against a formidable force. While the Iranians have always been better fighters than the Arabs the GCC states have sought to give their troops more training, using Western trainers and techniques. This may not have eliminated the Iranian advantage but it closed the gap.

The Gulf Arab states have a long history with Iran and other hostile outsiders. The solution has always been to seek unity and outside allies. In the 19th century, the coastal emirates (city states that depended on trade, pearls, and fishing) allied themselves with Britain, for protection against the Turks (who controlled what is now Iraq), Iran (always a threat to the Arabs), and the interior tribes of Arabia. Britain was interested in suppressing pirates (which often operated out of the emirates) and halting Turkish expansion. In 1971, seven of the emirates formed a federation: the UAE. There were immediate disputes with Saudi Arabia about where the land and water borders should be. Some of those disputes are still unresolved. The Saudis consider themselves the leader of Arabia, but most of the people in Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE often disagree. There is lots of friction. Nevertheless, in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council was formed by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE was the chief organizer of the council and has constantly quarreled with Saudi Arabia over leadership issues. But when it comes to outside threats, especially the Iranians, there is less quarrelling and a lot more cooperation. It's uncertain if this will be enough to thwart the Iranians. Only an actual war will reveal the reality of the situation.

 


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