A Sign of Sanity in the Middle East

A U.S. resolution to be brought in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to extend the arms embargo on Iran appears headed for a resounding defeat.

Diplomats were quoted by AFP as saying that opposition “is so widespread that Washington is unlikely even to secure the nine votes required to force Moscow and Beijing to wield their vetoes.” Foreign Policy magazine called it a “doomed document.”

Public opinion polls seeking to divine the sentiments of millions of people operate within significant margins of error, and often careen past them; but the head-counting of a small group of diplomats at the UNSC tends to be more accurate in predicting which hands will go up in the voting (members do raise their hands to vote).

But doomed or not, the United States is not alone in its ardent desire to keep the lid on Iranian purchases of fighter jets, tanks and warships with which to pursue their quest for regional dominance.

The Gulf Cooperation Council — comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — has now sent a letter to the UNSC backing the American position.

As the GCC missive says, Iran has “not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”

“As such, it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons’ movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilizing activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organizations,” the GCC said.

The letter came out of “weeks of shuttle diplomacy” conducted by Brian Hook, the outgoing U.S. Special Representative for Iran, according to Bloomberg. Hook was in Europe on the same shuttle, but the Europeans remained obdurately opposed.

The American diplomat did not seem to think that his efforts were futile, however. He still holds out hope that even Russia and China, the biggest immovables on the council, might be persuaded to go along, said Bloomberg.

But even if the pundits are right, and the U.S. resolution is emphatically voted down, and even if the American resort to demanding “snapback” sanctions on Iran for violating in the 2015 nuclear deal also fails, all was not for nought.

As Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a tweet on Sunday: “Countries in the Middle East from the Gulf to Israel support extending the arms embargo. It is deeply important to every one of them. Arabs and Israelis are speaking with one voice and the Security Council must listen.”

If they do not listen, and they don’t heed the warnings about the Iranian menace, they will bear a public responsibility for the death and destruction that will surely follow. The world will know that the members of the Security Council, ostensibly concerned with global security, allowed Iran to go on a shopping spree to obtain the tools for obliterating that selfsame security.

What makes the GCC letter even more striking is that the six countries who signed it are not necessarily such good friends.

In particular, Qatar has been boycotted by the others over its support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, though it denies accusations of aiding al-Qaeda or Islamic State. And in signing the letter, Qatar has gone against Iran, with which it has amicable relations, another reason for its outcast status among Gulf States.

Yet, on this issue, which threatens the peace and stability of the entire region, the six countries have acted together. No doubt, Qatar calculated that the risk of irritating Iran was minimal, given the bleak prospects of the U.S. resolution, it was a way of mending fences with its neighbors at a small rhetorical cost.

Nevertheless, it serves as an additional illustration of the adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Ever since Moav and Midyan combined against the Bnei Yisrael, it has been an operative truth. Enemies will make alliances (genuine friendship in politics, especially geopolitics, is usually a chimera) to fight a common enemy. When finished with that, they can resume fighting each other.

Though Israel has a shared interest with the Gulf States in opposing Iran, it was not a signatory to this or any other joint statement on the matter. It was left for Pompeo to assert that they are “speaking with one voice.” Cooperation with Israel is still relegated to behind-the-scenes. Formal diplomatic relations await a settlement with the Palestinians, which continues to defy all human effort.

Still, the GCC letter is a sign of sanity in the Middle East, where irrational, atavistic hatreds are the norm. At least some people can get along for a worthwhile purpose — sometimes.