Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Gulf States Agree to Involve Iran in Security Plans

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Gulf States Agree to Involve Iran in Security Plans

Article excerpt

A FOUR-DAY summit meeting of Persian Gulf kings, emirs, and ruling sheikhs has ended with a clear signal that Iran should be included in any new regional security arrangement once Kuwait has been liberated.

The summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Doha, Qatar, brought together rulers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait. The council was set up during the Iran-Iraq war, when Iran was a threat to the region and Iraq its great protector.

Gulf leaders refused to spell out their thinking on a future regional defense arrangement, but said in their final statement that they were seeking an arrangement with Tehran. Qatari Foreign Minister Mubarak al-Khater, the summit spokesman, said the nature of security arrangements would depend on the military situation after the liberation of Kuwait.

Tehran opposes the stationing of foreign forces in the region, and has suggested that troops from the GCC together with Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan form a new pan-Islamic defense force to protect a liberated Kuwait. It is unlikely, conference observers said, that Gulf states would allow Iranian troops to be stationed in the Arab Gulf. But summit sources said they believe Tehran would eventually modify its position if properly consulted throughout the process. Regional observers, though, have expressed concern that the presence of United States-dominated forces would provide ammunition to the hard-line faction in Iran, thereby undermining President Hashemi Rafsanjani's liberal reform movement.

States in the region would still opt for Western forces as the best form of long-term defense, say Western diplomats in the Gulf. "They may talk regional, think regional, but the truth is that they only have faith in Western forces," says a Western diplomat in Doha. "But first we have to be invited, and second they have put up the tab."

Although Islamic groups have already expressed opposition to a long-term US presence, conservatives argue that Western forces are necessary to fill the regional power vacuum in the event of the destruction of the Iraqi military machine. …

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