Has Iran's concept of Gulf security changed in light of neighbourhood diplomacy?

Iran wants to be the policeman for the Arab Gulf (photo by Adobe)

Tehran seeks to once again play the role of policeman in the Middle East, says Ahmad Abdel-Rahman.

The rapprochement with Tehran by the Arab Gulf States and their preference towards diplomacy to resolve disputes and calm tensions raises a question about some of the changes that would be required from the Iranian side for the success of these reconciliations. This idea is raised not only because of Iran's initiatives for rapprochement with the Arab countries, but also because of the resulting naval alliance between Tehran and some Arab Gulf countries. However, it is necessary to understand the extent to which their attitude has remained unchanged along with future developments.This includes Iran's concept of security.

Security and Iran

Security refers to the collective arrangements necessary to ensure that the Arabian Gulf states are not blocked, attacks are not launched on their territory and natural resources, primarily oil and gas, are not interfered with. The term security also refers to not obstructing the passage of commercial and maritime cargo ships or any measures that may be harmful to their rights and interests.

Iran is one of the countries located on the Arabian Gulf. Since its lands are on the northern side of the Strait of Hormuz, and it has many islands located near the Strait, Iran can control it. Hence, it has an important role achieving stability in the Arab Gulf. However, this is complicated by the fact that it has its own perceptions of the concept of Gulf security, which may be different from its neighbours in the Arab countries located on the other side of the Arabian Gulf. For example,Tehran's concept of Gulf security has resulted in the complete exclusion of Iran from regional security arrangements over the past two decades.

But there is no doubt that what the Arabian Gulf represents is vitally important to Iran. Different actors in Middle East affairs, whether the Arabian Gulf states, Iran or the US, have different opinions about what constitutes a threat to regional security.

The importance of the Arabian Gulf in Iran's foreign policy and its national interests has been apparent since the Shah era, there have been developments in its perceptions of security arrangements. The most important of these security arrangements, from Iran's point of view, is the rejection of foreign interference in the region's security arrangements and the need for comprehensive cooperation among all countries in the region.

For example, since Iran's relationship with the US is tense Tehran realises that in any engagement with it to ensure Gulf security will have to be limited. However, Iran is seeking to return to its role of the Gulf policeman, which it played during the time of the Shah, and wants to retain the upper hand in any security arrangements.

Iran's threat to the security of the Gulf is in the shape of weapons and capabilities of anti-missile ships and ballistic missiles, as well as its missile tests and military manoeuvres carried out by the Revolutionary Guards. This is in addition to Iran's threat to close the Strait or to intercept ships passing through the sea-lanes. The movement of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil passes, has become a focus of confrontation between Iran and the US and a place where Iran can show its military power.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023