Leaders pose on May 31 during the recent Arab League Summit held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council - handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Mecca Summit and the Security of the Region

Al-Arab, London, June 2

The convening of the Gulf Summit in Mecca was a “last chance” call to protect peace and security in the Gulf and the Middle East. In the midst of the ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran, the leaders of the Gulf states convened in Mecca and unequivocally rejected Iran’s interference in the region. Sadly, the entire region is currently caught in the midst of the fighting between the two powers. This has become more and more pronounced ever since U.S. President Donald Trump began exerting pressure on the Iranian regime in an attempt to force it to make political concessions. The upcoming summer months will be extremely important in determining the fate of these tensions. Although it is unlikely that the two powers will go to actual war, the lack of direct communication between Washington and Tehran suggests that the situation is not going to dramatically improve either. It is also highly unlikely that President Trump will change his attitude to Iran, since this hostility has been a fundamental pillar of his foreign policy. On the Iranian side, the mullah regime has long given up the goal of behaving like a normal nation state. Hence, this conflict is not a traditional struggle between two normal states. The intensification of the American pressure campaign against Iran is pushing Teheran toward a critical edge that may yet lead to an open conflict between the two countries, with major repercussions to the Middle East. Trump seems to believe that harsh sanctions combined with a noisy media campaign will convince Iran to return to the negotiating table. To this end, he has already ordered to mobilization of additional U.S. forces in the region (as if there were not already enough American troops situated in 11 countries surrounding Iran). This was followed up by a series of statements about Iran’s “weakness” and “stubbornness” by both Trump and his national security adviser, John Bolton. Meanwhile, Iran has been trying to circumvent the American sanctions by turning to Germany, France and the U.K. to find alternative financial mechanisms that could keep its economy afloat. The European private sector, however, seems very much committed to maintaining the American sanctions. In the international context, [Israeli Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement of a tripartite security meeting among the United States, Russia and Israel in June also bodes poorly for Iran. It suggests that Moscow, too, is beginning to distance itself from Tehran. As each side continues to hunker down and defend its positions, the fate of this impasse will be determined by whoever blinks first. The mullahs may prefer to wait for the U.S. presidential elections in 2020, but the fate of their battle might be sealed long before then. – Khattar Abu Diab (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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