Sanctions gone, Iran should bridge gulf with the GCC

The GCC and the Arab world will be closely watching Iran's actions as it gets back into business after years of biting sanctions.

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Published: Sun 17 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Jan 2016, 8:15 AM

World powers and Iranians are elated, others are relieved as the country joined the global economy on Sunday after a decade of being out in the cold. But there remains a gulf of mistrust in the Middle East over the regime's past actions. Once considered an ''exporter of terror'' by the US, the deal with the country has ''opened a new chapter with the world.'' The UAE stands to gain $13 billion as trade with Iran is expected to get a boost between now and 2018, according to the IMF.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani is delighted because it will unlock $100 billion in assets. The former pariah state is now back in the international reckoning after years of sanctions. The West has made peace with the country, ignoring reservations from the GCC, and are ready to share the spoils of a diplomatic victory. US President Obama is being lauded for his role in bringing Iran and Cuba into the mainstream and all's well with the world, the administration would have us believe. That's no entirely true if you take a closer look at the Arab ground reality and Iran's stormy relationship with its neighbours.
Should the GCC and Arab countries be concerned about this development? No. Cautious? Yes. And rightly so. Over a decade of sanctions did not stop Iran meddling militarily in other countries through its proxies. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are prime examples. An Arab coalition is fighting its proxy, the Houthis, in Yemen. Tehran dabbled in sectarian protests in Bahrain and burnt its fingers when the GCC intervened. It has played to the sectarian gallery when it has seen an opening which is the main reason why peace remains elusive in these countries.
The GCC and the Arab world will be closely watching its actions as it gets back into business after years of biting sanctions. It's important to follow Tehran's money trail after this deal. A flexing of conventional military muscle and its role in proliferation of weapons will only complicate efforts to reach lasting peace in the region. Even before the sanctions were lifted, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards conducted missile tests, breaching UN resolutions.
For starters, this is a win-win situation for Western companies who have already rushed to Iran seeking business opportunities. Tehran has responded by placing an order for more than 100 aircraft with Airbus. Oil majors like Shell are making a beeline for the country after years of punishing sanctions. The rewards will be great if they toe the revolutionary line. Prisoners are being exhanged. The bonhomie is evident, even unsettling. Economics has trumped Iran's deadly politics if you ignore the tanking of GCC markets after news trickled in about the country meeting its nuclear obligations under the agreement with the West.
Moderates in Tehran have gained from this deal and should seize an opening for normalising ties with the GCC after events of the past weeks when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries cut ties with the regime after the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
It is important that Iran does not go down the revolutionary road once again under the influence of extremist elements within the establishment. A sanction-free Iran will benefit the world economy, no doubt. Trade ties could get a boost and ordinary Iranians will reap the benefits. Suspicions will linger if the regime does not end its covert political and military activities in the region as its economy opens out to the world.



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