Cal to the countries of the Persian Gulf: Why work with Russia, if it finances Iran?

Capt. Michael Brasseur, commander of Task Force 59, briefs Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Kahl at an unmanned surface ship demonstration in Manama, Bahrain, Nov. 18. (US Navy/Mark Thomas Mahmod)

WASHINGTON — In a keynote address today in Bahrain, the Pentagon’s top policy official argued that the Gulf states should sever ties with Russia through Moscow deepening of military relations with Iran.

In prepared remarks Colin Caldeputy defense minister for political affairs, told an audience at the annual dialogue in Manama that Russia’s decision to buy military drones from Iran for the ongoing war in Ukraine will backfire in a region where Iranian drone strikes are one of the biggest security concerns, shared by Saudi Arabia. Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, etc.

“Now, even as Russia uses Iranian drones to bomb Ukrainian cities, some in the region believe that engagement with Putin could drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran,” Kahl said. “But that approach didn’t work in Syria, when Russia and Iran redoubled their support for a brutal dictator in Damascus, and it’s even more unlikely to work now, given Russia’s reliance on Iranian weapons in the war in Ukraine.

“Indeed, a declining and isolated Russia is not only more firmly in Tehran’s camp, but is likely to find common ground with China and North Korea in pursuing policies that defy norms and rules that benefit every citizen, government, company and non-governmental organizations in this room and around the world,” warned Kal.

RELATED: That Iran will benefit from Russia’s help in Ukraine

Kal’s statements in such a venue seemed like a slightly veiled shot at the regional leaders — most prominently Saudi Arabia — which helped support Moscow in the face of sanctions imposed by Western countries after the February invasion of Ukraine. Even the decision of some states to remain neutral in global structures such as the UN when it comes to Russia, for example, and February statement From a senior diplomat in the UAE, that “taking sides will only lead to more violence” is seen as a problem in the West, which requires both economic and political pressure on Moscow to remain strong going forward.

Kahl’s comments also said why the Gulf states should cooperate with the US on China, on the basis that the PRC may make tempting offers, but they come with the “intention” to “fundamentally change the rules-based international order. »

“In the Middle East, China is not interested in mutually beneficial coalitions, and Beijing has neither the intention nor the ability to integrate the security architecture of the region,” he said. “The PRC pursues ties based on its narrow transactional, commercial and geopolitical interests. Full stop.”

Once again, Kahl tried to link a rival to Iran, the regional boogeyman: “Meanwhile, Beijing’s narrative of ‘neutral’ engagement allows it to play both sides: it can attend regional summits in countries directly threatened by Iran while expanding ties to Tehran , bypassing significant investments in regional security and stability.”

However, it is not yet clear how effective this argument will be. Jonathan Lorda regional expert at the Center for a New American Security, said that while Kahl’s speech was “well-delivered,” but that “the lack of action will not be convincing to our Arab partners.”

“The Gulf countries are flirting with Moscow, Beijing and others because they think it’s in their interests,” said Lord, who before joining CNAS held a number of regional positions at the Pentagon and ran the Middle East portfolio at House Armed. Services Committee. “Until the Biden administration and Congress address the needs of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh through policymaking, we shouldn’t expect much to change.”

As for specific attempts to gain a foothold in the region, saying that Russian ties to Iran harm local states, Lord is also skeptical.

“It’s very reducing,” he said. “OPEC countries are rentier states, which must first of all earn their living from the price of oil per barrel. Any wealth that Iran accumulates as a result of market conditions is both a marginal and marginal factor in the calculations for these countries.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Kahl pushed for greater regional integration, building on recent military and political ties between Israel and neighbors with which it has historically been at odds – again, driven by the Iranian threat.

“This administration believes that our collective security will benefit from a more integrated coalition of partners that synchronizes action across the political, economic and security sectors, all within the framework of a rules-based international order,” he said.

“In short: The United States remains committed to using all the tools of our national power to strengthen peace, promote stable economies, and deter aggression in this vital region and around the world.” Cal to the countries of the Persian Gulf: Why work with Russia, if it finances Iran?

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