The New Year has seen relations in the region spiral out of control with Saudi Arabia cutting off diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sectarian tensions mounted following the execution of prominent Saudi Shi’a cleric Nimr al-Nimr and the subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. With a resurgent Iran, emboldened by the lifting of sanctions and the recognition of global powers of its nuclear program, and a young, ambitious leadership in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that such diplomatic stand-offs will be a common occurrence in the near future. Read more »
Sunni vs. Shia sectarian tension and violence is raging, and ISIS — a Sunni terrorist group — is taking advantage of it. We cannot defeat ISIS unless parties on both sides — particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia — stop fueling sectarianism. A security-only minded strategy in tackling ISIS will likely fail. We need a more comprehensive solution that tackles incitement on television and social media as well as in educational curriculums. It is difficult to see how a solution to many of the region’s problems will be achieved as long as Iran and Saudi Arabia maintain a zero-sum game approach with each other.
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In the Gulf Arab States, the Iranian nuclear deal has been met with celebration and apprehension. The business community in the Gulf is no doubt glad that the Iranian market, long shuttered under heavy sanctions, will finally be open for business. Yet political tensions caused by the Iranian government in the region continue to be a concern. Read more »
Another crisis is brewing in the Middle East, this time between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Iranian president Ahmadinejad took the unprecedented step of visiting the disputed Gulf island of Abu Musa that both countries claim along with two other islands of Lesser and Greater Tunb. This prompted the normally reticent UAE to condemn the visit in the “strongest possible terms” and recall its ambassador from Iran. Additionally a football match between both states was cancelled by the UAE. Read more »
Since the 1979 revolution Iran has tried its best to maintain a sense of normality. But it is a classic example of a country that has not come to terms with itself, and that poses a challenge for the Gulf countries in trying to decipher how to deal with its northern neighbor. Read more »
As tensions continue to rise in the Gulf because of religious, foreign and nationalistic forces, a breakthrough in the north-south divide would be a giant step forward. So I propose a solution: the Arab Gulf States recognise once and for all the name “Persian Gulf” for the 7,000-year-old, 600-mile body of water that separates us from our Iranian neighbour; and in return, Iran ends its occupation of the Arab islands and returns their sovereignty to the United Arab Emirates. Read more »