17 January 2014
Amidst fresh threat of sanctions from the US Congress, Iran's terms of rapprochement with the West, following the successful breakthrough in its nuclear talks with the P5+1 in November last year, are all set to be implemented from 20 January. Tehran seems unfazed by such reports and the region is abuzz with the coming changes as countries are readying to align themselves on the right side of Tehran.
The recent interview of the Sheik of Dubai (BBC, 13 January), who candidly stated that lifting of sanctions on Iran is good for the region, is just one such indication. For good measure, he added that the policies of Dubai are different from that of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar - the two countries that have actively promoted Islamic Jihadists to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Assad, an implacable ally of Iran. The Sheik said that his country does "not believe in interfering with its neighbours but in helping them". The fact that a minor potentate of the GCC has broken ranks to speak out against the avowed policy of the group is a significant move.
There are good reasons for this. The tiny city-state has benefitted immensely from the smuggling and re-selling of Iranian oil, besides maintaining huge off-shore accounts of the Iranian elite in its banks. Though it maintained a political stand-off, economic relations with Iran have bloomed through the informal sector. And during the sharp foreign exchange crisis in October 2011 and again in December 2012, when dollars began to disappear from the Tehran bourse and the value of the Iranian Rial collapsed, it was to Dubai that Tehran turned to ship-in plane-loads of dollars.
The Dubai Sheikh's recent utterance is an indication not only of the Sheikdom's desire to catch up with the high tide of Iran's rise in the region, but also a definite weakening of the Saudi clout among the Gulf monarchs. This is heightened by the latter's troubled relationship with the US. In the regional calculus, not only among the unelected gulf monarchs but also among the rulers from Cairo to Islamabad, there is one simple theorem - 'if your relationship with the US is bad, you suffer and not the other way round'. Only those that quickly adapt and align their position to the winds blowing from Washington hope to survive and cash in.
Even prior to the Iran rapprochement, the US had already left its allies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in the lurch, letting them hold on to their Jihadists facing a rout in the hands of a recalcitrant Assad who merely handed over chemical weapons and held on to the rest of his armory to slaughter the foreign mercenaries. The fretting and fuming of Saudi Arabia that refused to take up its elected position in the UNSC as a protest against this turnaround in US policy on Syria did not help the cause.