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January 13, 2020 No.
8490

Gulf Cooperation Council Official: Persistent Military And Economic Pressure On Iran Is The Way To Bring it To The Negotiation Table

In an article in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-'Aziz Hamad Al-Aluwaisheg, assistant secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for political and negotiation affairs, commended the bold military action recently taken by the U.S. against Iran. It is precisely this policy, he said, that can curb Iran's aggression and bring it back to the negotiation table – unlike America's previous policy of overlooking Iran's provocations and avoiding significant military action against it, which failed to achieve these goals. Al-Aluwaisheg called on the U.S. to regard military action as an integral part of its overall strategy vis-à-vis Iran, not just as a temporary and limited measure, since combined military and economic pressure may yield results, while also showing America's allies that it is now serious and consistent in its policy.


'Abd Al-Aziz Hamad Al-Aluwaisheg (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London)

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

Decisive Military Action Will Deter Iran And Also Convince America's Allies Of Its Serious Intentions

"The U.S. made two significant moves lately that can affect the developments in the region by deterring Iran and bringing it [back] to the negotiation table after it has long tried to avoid this. On December 29, [2019] the U.S. bombed five military facilities of the Hizbullah Brigades, an Iraqi organization close to Qassem Soleimani, in retaliation for this militia's firing of 30 missiles on coalition bases in Kirkuk, which caused the death of an American contractor and the wounding of several soldiers. On January 3, 2020, a U.S. drone [strike] killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the so-called Qods Force and the mastermind behind Iran's actions in the region, as well as several of his aides, after his agents attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

"These two events were surprising, because they were conspicuous in their bold, daring and direct confrontation of Iran, and because they came after several months in which the U.S. avoided responding to Iran's provocations. A decisive response of this kind is crucial in order to demonstrate America's sincerity and convince Iran that there will be devastating consequences to its provocations and its stubborn [attempts] to determine the political future of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against the will of their peoples and even if this requires the use of force.

"But in order for these blows to be effective in deterring Iran, the American military pressure must persist, along with the economic pressure, whenever Iran and its agents carry out another escapade, and this must be accompanied by diplomatic efforts more energetic than the ones made until now. An accepted principle in foreign policy is that diplomacy is not effective unless accompanied by military and economic pressure (sanctions and other economic tools). Similarly, military achievements will not yield the desired results unless accompanied by diplomatic action that translates them into political profit.

"The weakening of the [Iraqi] Hizbullah Brigades and the assassination of Qassem Soleimani are two good examples of the diplomacy of force, but they will not be sufficient to change Iran's behavior unless the latter is convinced that they represent a long-term strategy with clear goals, rather than isolated events in response to a specific provocation.

"U.S. policy considers negotiation as the only way to resolve the crisis in Iran's [relations] with the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf and beyond. Paradoxically, the American attacks in Iraq will [actually] increase the likelihood of this happening. Iran has been escalating [the crisis] for years, and especially in the past year – but it never encountered any meaningful response, so it had no incentive to negotiate and nothing to lose by using violence and refusing to conduct negotiations. In other words, the policy of turning a blind eye [to Iran's actions] and keeping quiet did nothing to curb Iran's appetite for adventures, with Soleimani representing the highest degree of this adventurousness.

Now That Soleimani Is Gone, It Is Possible To Weaken The Hardliners He Represented

"But now the situation has changed, and if the U.S. responses continue at the same level, Iran will [suddenly] see the benefit of negotiations as an alternative to the method of force, aggression and destruction.

"Some observers point to the feelings of sorrow and fury over Soleimani's death, and infer that Iran is now interested only in revenge and is not thinking rationally. That is true, but we must consider that the funeral ceremonies and the displays of support [for Soleimani] were coordinated and orchestrated on the official level, and do not necessarily reflect enthusiastic [popular] support for Soleimani and for continuing his path. We must not confuse these temporary displays [of support] with the long-term interests of the Iranian regime.

"It is a well-known fact that Soleimani was an embarrassing figure for moderate Iranians, and it is no secret that some government officials regarded him as an obstacle to their efforts to enact a different foreign policy. Some Iranians saw him as an instrument of oppression in the domestic arena and an instrument of war in the external one. Moreover, they held him responsible for perpetrating war crimes that undermined Iran's historical relations with the [rest of] the region. Soleimani's opponents obviously cannot express their true feelings in [the present] charged atmosphere, but [now] that he is gone from the political arena, it is possible to weaken the radical elements he represented...

"In other words, the atmosphere in Iran and Iraq does not make negotiation, the [option] Trump favors, very difficult to realize. On the contrary, it may make [this option] easier to achieve, now that Trump has rendered the option of Iranian expansion and refusal to negotiate unprofitable [for Iran]. True, the leader of the Iranian revolution [Ali Khamenei] rejected [the option of] dialogue with Trump, but what is needed is not open-ended negotiations, which the other sides reject as well, but rather negotiations on specific issues, based on principles agreed-upon by everyone.

"The negotiations do not have to be bilateral, between the U.S. and Iran, but should be multilateral, between Iran and all the sides that are harmed by its policy. The GCC has already clarified the principles that should underpin the relations between countries of the region, and Iran was informed of this when it proposed [to conduct] a regional dialogue. These principles include commitment to the U.N. charter, which demands to respect the international borders, the political independence and the territorial integrity of neighboring nation-states. They also include a commitment to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs [of other countries] and from using force and civil war to attain political goals.

"To increase the chances of successful negotiations on all issues, not just on the nuclear issue, it is crucial to maintain the military and economic pressure [on Iran], along with an ongoing diplomatic track with clear goals that will be determined through consultation, especially with the countries of the region.

"The diplomatic activity of the present U.S. administration is clearly limited, compared to that of the previous [administration], and this has caused the [U.S] policy vis-à-vis Iran to gain insufficient support, [both] inside and outside the U.S. Launching [this policy] in the U.S. will initially be difficult, given the election period, since many [Americans] view the administration's actions with a degree of skepticism – but internal support is crucial [given the challenging nature of the tasks ahead]. For example, American diplomacy faces the difficult task of convincing some of its allies and partners of the serious and ongoing [character] of its strategy vis-à-vis Iran, and the effectiveness of its means. In the recent days, [the U.S.] has come a long way towards convincing the skeptics by proving that it is able to take bold and direct military action against Iran."

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 8, 2020.