The Gulf Summit: An Opportunity For Strategic Thinking

Peter Huessy Mitchell Institute On Aerospace Studies
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The president’s visit to the Gulf Cooperative Council Summit this month is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Americans, like our founding fathers, believe good fences make good neighbors, and we don’t want to search for foreign dragons to slay. Let’s apply those guidelines to our Middle East policy.

We have a fence issue with Mexico, but we don’t (yet) have missile batteries threatening us across our southern border. But in the Middle East our allies are within range of Iran’s missiles. And armed terrorists, like Hezbollah, have already crossed into Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain.

There is thus no “balance of power fence” on the Arabian Peninsula. Nor is there a credible strategy to stop Iranian aggression. Unchecked, Iran will put in jeopardy the oil supplies of the industrialized world.  

Iran has 80 million people, huge reserves of oil and gas, and a revolutionary ambition to rule the Middle East. Iran has no plans for good fences or good neighbors when it becomes the oil hegemon of the Gulf.

Iran created Hezbollah to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon and turn it into a base from which to attack Israel. Iran similarly deploys terrorist and regular military forces to keep Syria’s Assad in power.

Further south, Iran funds Bahraini rebels to overthrow the government, knowing the loss of our Naval Base there would be a serious blow to our security.

Iran ships weapons to Yemeni rebels, to establish a base to control access to the Suez Canal, and then direct attacks at Saudi Arabia. American and allied warships have already interdicted shipments of Iranian weapons to Yemen.

Most Americans think the Israel-Palestine issue is the cause of regional violence.

Not true.

Unfortunately, fifty years of the American led Middle East “peace process” has served as a smoke screen behind which Iran undertakes terrorist attacks on American forces and our allies. The tempo of unrest is accelerating.

The forthcoming visit by our President with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is an opportunity to establish a firm partnership between the United States and its Gulf. Such a union would check Iran’s terrorist ways. And help establish “good fences” between the Gulf neighbors, a job primarily the task of our allies but best undertaken in partnership with America.

On the other hand, we have to recognize that regional security cannot be enhanced by “sharing the neighborhood” between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is true both countries live in the same Middle East neighborhood, but expecting an aggressive Iran to peacefully share Middle East real estate in a game of “Geostrategic Monopoly,” is a vacuous dream at best.

Iran is a revolutionary country dedicated to the spread of Iranian power. Central to their strategy is its opposition to common rules of international behavior. And if we look the other way while Iran jeopardizes two thirds of the conventional hydrocarbons now available to the industrialized world, that would be the height of irresponsibility.

What then are the United States’ options in the region?

First, the President should offer to sponsor an organization of regional nations to deter Iranian adventuring.

Second, secure a commitment from these allies that they will commit funds and forces, including special operations units, to defend their sovereignty and to stop Iranian aggression. It would be sort of a “NATO of the Middle East.”

Third, offer member nations help to deploy upgraded regional missile-defense systems to prevent Iran from using its ballistic missiles for coercion and blackmail.

Fourth, provide top cover in the form of airpower and airlift including reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence and other specialized capabilities as needed.

Fifth, commit to bringing on board our allies to provide niche resources that would further the objective of creating a coalition to deter Iranian terrorism.

Sixth, reconsider improved trade and investment with Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. Iran can no longer demand a free ride from its terror master ways. So far, more business has not induced Iran to moderate its behavior in the least.

In short, a successful GCC summit needs to address the fifteen thousand pound elephant in the room: why “wink” at Iran’s serial backing of terrorism while simultaneously pretending Iran abides by a JCPOA deal they never signed and which they violate by word and deed?

Smart power starts with smart thinking. That means facing the grim fact that no number of business deals will deflect Iran from its revolutionary goals.

However, if an American president sponsors a strategy that reflects that reality, that would be a very smart first step in stopping the Iranian terror masters from their goal of being the region’s hegemon.