GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Zibakalam Mofrad
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The GCC and Iran after Rouhani’s Election
Paper Proposal Text :
The Iranian Presidential election in June 2013 was in many ways a turning point for the country. One area in particular which the new Iranian President has already demonstrated its influence is in the country’s relations with the outside world including her Arab neighbors’ in the region. To appreciate the importance of the new administration, we have to glance back at Iran’s relations with the GCC during the eight years of the previous administration led by President Ahmadinejad. The key to Iran’s relations with the world has been defined and determined by the country’s nuclear program during the past decade. The reformists tried to follow a moderate and certainly non-belligerence approach over the country’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad however changed that policy completely. The hard-line president replaced the reformist’s non-belligerence policy over the nuclear program with a completely
radical approach. Ahmadinejad and his hard-line colleagues decided to continue the country’s nuclear program full speed irrespective of what the outside world in particular the West might do. The West’s response to the new Iranian approach was indeed serious. The Iranian nuclear dossier was simply
transferred from the IAEA headquarter in Vienna to the Security Council in New York. The machinery of the Security Council was employed to partly preventing the Iranian full speed nuclear drive and partly to punish the Islamic regime. The UN sanctions against Iran on the one hand and the combined EU and the US sanctions against Iran forced the country to either reconsider its new nuclear program, or else to seek ways and means to so called by-pass the sanctions. As we all know, the Iranian leaders chose the latter. This meant that Iran’s neighbors would play a crucial role in enabling Iran to bust the sanctions.

Chief amongst Iran’s detours to circumvent the sanctions was the GCC and in particular Dubai. Since
the Islamic revolution in 1979 there has been a steady presence of Iranians in the UAE. The Gulf state
acted as a key port for huge amount of Iranian imports during the war with Iraq in the 1980's.Over the
years since the Iranian revolution tens of thousands Iranian business men came to Dubai and launched their activities in the Emirates. Facing the revolutionary turmoil, the war with Iraq, heavy state control over the economy, harsh economic rules and regulations and, perhaps worst of all, a socialistic and anti-capitalism euphoria propagated by the Iranian revolutionary leaders, forced many Iranian entrepreneurs and businessmen to seek refuge in the Emirate. Tourism was the next development which created strong bonds between Iran and the UAE. Millions of Iranians went for a mini holiday to Dubai. They went there for shopping; many Iranian women were excited for not having to wear hijab and some Iranian
men sneaked to bars, discos and nightclubs to have fun. But that was only one side of the troubled relations between the Islamic Iran and her GCC neibours. There were basically three major obstacles which hampered any attempt to have cordial and friendly relations between the two neighbors. First the historical dispute over the Three Islands. The Arabs claim they have evidence which shows Iran was not the sole occupier of the Islands. And Iran says she is not even prepared to listen to what the Arabs have to say. Second the relations between the two giant states in the Persian Gulf: Iran and the Saudi Arabia. There is a saying amongst Tehran inhabitants
that whenever there is a pleasant weather in Tehran, it must be raining in the Caspian Sea area in the north. And by the same token we can say that whenever there is storm between Iran and the GCC, it
means things are not going well between Tehran and Riyadh. Last but by no means least, is the West and
Tehran’s relations with the former. In much the same way as the Saudi factor, the relations between the
GCC and Iran is highly influenced by the weather between the West and Tehran.

All the three factors went from bad to worse under the previous Iranian administration led by Mr.Ahmadinejad. The nuclear quarrel with the West turned from a regional dispute to an international crisis. Partly under the pressure from the West and partly as a result of Ahmadinejad’s anti –US and her allies’ rhetoric in the region, the GCC tightened its grip over Iranian shadowy business act ivies in the Gulf and busting the sanctions. From the Iranian leaders’ perspectives, the Gulf Council’s refusal to assist Iran was a friendly act and collusion with the West when Iran needed her Muslims’ neighbor support. From the GCC perspective however, its unfriendly policies towards Iran were in response to
Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric against them. During the eight years of Ahmadinejad and the hard-liners the
relation between Iran and the GCC fell to its worst position since the Islamic revolution. Worst however was to come. The crisis in Syria brought Tehran and Riyadh virtually on the state of a war. It put further strains on the already troubled water of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is against this uneasy background that Mr.Rouhani was elected in last years’ Iranian presidential election. During his campaign he showed his disagreement against the way the Iranian nuclear
negotiators have been carrying out the talk with the 5+1 team. No sooner than he was elected, the new
president embarked on a completely different approach in pursuing Iran’s nuclear policy. He is trying
to establish some degree of confidence between Iran and the West. He hasn't at same time forgotten Iran’s battered relations in the region. It is too early to conclude that a new era has arisen for Iran. There are powerful forces both domestically and in the US which are challenging Rouhani’s détente. But the future of Iran’s relations with the GCC hangs in the outcome of the new Iranian president’s success in reaching an overall agreement with the West on the country’s nuclear program.