Reviving the Iranian bogeyman

The Gulf states should reject renewed US extortion, and turn north and east

Brett McGurk, the US National Security Council Co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, behaves as though he is his country’s High Commissioner for the region, and the Gulf countries in particular. He issues directives, dictates foreign policies, and has even openly threatened to punish these states if they maintain certain commercial ties with China.

McGurk revealed in a talk at the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain on Sunday that US forces had “exposed and deterred imminent threats” by Iran to launch an attack Saudi Arabia. This potential aggression “likely did not emerge because of the close security co-operation between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which is ongoing and continuous,” he declared.

The US High Commissioner’s remarks were aimed atextorting the Gulf states, yet again raising the spectre of the Iranian bogeyman to pull them back into the US camp after they defied it by adhering to the OPEC+ oil production agreement with Russia

We don’t know how McGurk learned of this purported Iranian plan to attack Saudi Arabia. He did not offer any evidence, nor explain how it was thwarted, nor why we never heard about it before from him or any of the US’ Western allies whose satellite surveillance of the region detects the slightest movement on the ground.

This is all about trying to intimidate Saudi Arabia, which has so far held back from officially ‘normalising’ with the Israel occupation state, and pushing it to sign up to the ‘Abraham Accords’ –especially after the return to power of their author Benjamin Netanyahu — and spend billions more dollars on weapons to confront this supposed threat.

We are well aware that relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia go through periods of tension. But this tension does not reach the point of Iranian missiles and drones being sent to attack Saudi infrastructure and oilfields. The leaders of both countries prioritise dialogue over confrontation, as evidenced in their recent talks in Baghdad.

It is Israel that is terrified by the threat posed by Iran’s missiles, drones, and growing nuclear capability. It is trying, with US backing, to revive its efforts to entangle the Gulf states into a military alliance with it that could set off a massively destructive regional war.

McGurk was brazenly lying. But unfortunately, there are some in the Gulf who buy his lies. They should never forget that his country failed to protect the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani, who is now in hiding in Abu Dhabi just a few kilometres from Manama. Or that it didn’t send a single soldier to Ukraine to prevent the Russia invasion eight months ago or protect it from the Russian bombardment that has ravaged its infrastructure.

The Iranian leadership is not as stupid as the Americans think to launch an attack on Saudi Arabia and provide the US and Israel with a pretext to bomb it. Even if it ever wanted to go for that option, it would get its paramilitary allies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen toact on its behalf, as it did in the shipping war against Israeli tankers in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. Those allies are perfectly able and willing to act if given the green light.

The Iranian leadership is unlikely to have wanted to attack Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, as they pose no direct threat to it. That threat is posed by Israel. These states should put an immediate end to the US’ military extortion as they did with its 70-year-old oil extortion — by turning north and east, to Russia and China, and joining the new multipolar international order they are constructing.

Reviving the Iranian bogeyman

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