A deal or a new arms race?
Following the historic deal between the P5+1 and Iran over its nuclear program, how will the GCC countries react? SecurityNewsDesk talks to 5 Dimension consultants, experts in regional geo politics, who have talked to advisors working with the GCC and some of the regional governments to get their views.
“The P5+1 deal with Iran is certainly historic but GCC countries are likely to react differently and in accordance with their national interests and regional sectarian conflicts remain a thorny issue,” said Aimen Dean.
Dean continued, “Oman, who campaigned behind the scenes and acted as a discreet mediator between Iran and the United States since 2012, is likely to welcome the new deal, as it would revive not only a potentially highly lucrative Iran-India gas pipeline project, but possibly even a similar project concerning oil exports from Iran to India via Oman.”
He added, “I also believe Kuwait would also welcome the outcome considering the nervousness of its leaders over the fragile sectarian coexistence in Kuwait and Iran’s influence over Kuwait’s Shia population.”
However, Saudi Arabia will be concerned by the implications of this deal for regional security. Among Riyadh’s concerns are the fact that Iran will have access to billions of US dollars that have been frozen and the fact that oil prices are likely to be affected should Iran gradually start to release more oil into the market.
Dean suggests, “Saudi Arabia’s concern is that with access to frozen funds and oil revenues, the Iranian regime would accelerate military aid to the Assad regime in Syria, thereby prolonging a conflict which gave rise to radical Sunni groups such as the ISIS and Al-Nusra.”
He believes the Saudis are also concerned that the Iranian regime would use such funds to channel more military and material aid to the Houthis in Yemen, who the Saudi forces have been fighting since March.
The Saudis seem to be paying close attention to particular clauses within the agreement, especially regarding the embargoes on weapons for 5 years and on missile parts and engines for 8 years. The Saudis and their allies in the GCC (Bahrain, Qatar and UAE) are determined to keep the crucial air force balance of power in their favour.
Currently, the GCC countries possess 595 modern fighter jets (including those currently on order) as opposed to 40 modern Iranian fighter jets. The clauses concerning weapons and missile parts embargo seem to have been included partly due to the GCC leaders demands put to President Obama earlier this year at the Camp David summit.
Both clauses were included to guarantee air power superiority of the GCC over Iran with the additional offer of a US missiles shield installed in GCC countries as further reassurance against any potential Iranian ballistic missile aggression.
A senior Saudi Foreign Ministry source told the 5 Dimensions team, “that while they are happy to see both clauses included in the deal, we are skeptical as to how they will be policed, monitored and enforced.”
Dean concluded by saying, “In our analysis there is an atmosphere within Saudi Arabia of kick-starting another arms race as a result of which the Saudis would spend tens of billion of US dollars upgrading their inadequate navy and purchasing further fourth generation fighter jets, including Typhoon Eurofighter jets (which it already possesses) and possibly French Rafales.
The deal might seem to have the illusion of ushering in a new era in the Middle East, but it could just as easily have kick started an arms race in which Saudi Arabia would attempt to outspend Iran militarily in order to guarantee military technology superiority over Iran as a strategic deterrence.”
5 Dimension Consultants have a department concentrating on regional geopolitics and have direct access into institutions across the Middle East region.