ARAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN IRAN AND the US, however timid, was bound to trouble many in the already troubled Middle East. When Iran agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for $7bn in sanctions relief, its historical adversaries, including Israel, were incensed. Tehran may have agreed to stop all enrichment above 5% in exchange for the partial lifting of sanctions but there are some who feel celebration of the deal might yet be premature.
The latest GCC summit, which normally brings together the six member states--including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman--to self congratulate on the past years' latest cosmetic achievements, was this time rounded up to address the pressing issue of the thawing of US relations with Iran. A summit initially designed to present a united front, in the end revealed cracks in a system that may have weathered the Arab Spring but is yet to recover from the Syrian conflict that continues to threaten the entire region.
Officially, Riyadh welcomed the Iran/US deal as a first step towards a solution to Tehran's nuclear ambitions providing, as a Saudi statement noted: 'there are good intentions.' With the devil being in the detail, the Saudi statement revealed some misgivings. A number of seasoned observers have, it should be said, also given voice to similar misgivings.
Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu labelled the deal a 'historic mistake.' For the Israeli premier battling disappointing opinion polls, having the convenient bogeyman of Iran on which to pin all the woes of his country, has proved a convenient tool often exploited to maximum effect.
The 'Shia' threat has been used at various times, in a number of tricky circumstances to consolidate power in the Gulf but this time it is generally being left well alone as GCC states wait and watch to see how things with Iran pan out.
Oman for its part refused to endorse a proposal put forward by Riyadh for closer GCC integration, in effect clearly marking itself as independent from Council authority. This came after it was revealed the Sultanate, situated at the entrance of the Gulf, had hosted secret talks between US and Iranian officials in a bid to facilitate meetings and a possible agreement. Meanwhile, Qatar and Kuwait remained subdued in their stance.
Kuwait emerged as a bridge builder and moderniser in a region where absolute monarchy remains the order of the day.
The country with a...