Any effective U.S. diplomatic approach to Iran must involve other countries in the Gulf, but Washington will not succeed if it continues to strive for an anti-Iranian alliance. While an overall security arrangement including all Gulf countries is not possible at this stage, a normalization of relations between Iran and its neighbors is an important and attainable step for reintegrating Iran into the international community, Marina Ottaway concludes in a new paper.
Gulf countries can help engage Iran in negotiations, but messy and often significant divisions between them complicate efforts to normalize relations. Ottaway analyzes Iran’s relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman—as well as Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Iraq.
“Although during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program Gulf countries are essentially spectators to a process—the outcome of which will be determined by the United States, Iran, major European countries, Russia, and China—GCC countries have an important role to play in the difficult process of reintegrating Iran into the international community,” Ottaway writes. “Normalization of relations among the GCC countries, Iraq, and Iran would be a positive step in this process of reintegration. It would also help stabilize the region, decreasing tensions and the possibility of conflicts over bilateral issues that might trigger more serious problems.”
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