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U.S. and Gulf States Must Coordinate Iran Policies

Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008

The Arab Gulf States and the United States are adopting increasingly contradictory positions on Iran. Each side seems bent on undermining the other, potentially leading to precisely the outcome that each side is trying to prevent. Here's how.

There is a strong tendency in the Gulf Arab states to try to co-opt adversaries. The most famous example may be King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's propensity for marrying the daughters of rival tribes of the Arabian Peninsula in the early 20th century, but there are many others. The United Arab Emirates exists as a country in part because the richest emirate, Abu Dhabi, both subsidizes the other emirates and exercises a light hand over federal rule. The Saudi government responded to radicals' 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in part by pouring money into the religious establishment, not only despite of, but indeed because of seemingly lukewarm support among leading clerics for the Saudi royal family. Just last spring, when Qatar brokered a Lebanese peace deal, rumors flew that the Qataris had paid off the adversaries. A well-placed Lebanese source told me that wasn't true at all; instead, the Qataris had created a $5 billion investment fund and offered to let Lebanese leaders become partners -- provided that the leaders resolved their differences under Qatari tutelage. ...

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