Report: Gulf States strive to avert regional conflict

Report: Gulf States strive to avert regional conflict

Shafaq News/ Gulf nations are actively working to prevent a major regional conflict following Iran's unexpected retaliatory attacks on Israel, as sources told Reuters, concerning that further escalation could draw them into the forefront of a broader conflict, jeopardizing efforts to reshape the region.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in particular, may be well placed to triangulate between Iran, Israel, and the United States after diplomatic advances in recent years that benefited all those countries.

The UAE and Bahrain inked a normalization agreement with Israel in 2020. Saudi Arabia was contemplating a similar deal, which also included a U.S. defense pact until the Gaza conflict disrupted diplomatic efforts. Additionally, Riyadh reconciled with Iran last year after years of conflict.

The policy of detente is now under its most significant threat yet, as the heightened risk to broader regional peace stemming from Israel's conflict with Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza since October 7 reaches a critical point.

A potential direct conflict between Israel and Iran could rapidly escalate to involve Gulf states, whose airspace sits between the two countries. These states also host numerous United States military bases, and the U.S. has pledged to protect its ally, Israel.

"Nobody wants an escalation. Everybody wants to contain the situation," a Gulf source close to government circles told Reuters, adding that there was probably wide telephone diplomacy under way.

"The pressure is not on Iran alone. The pressure is now on Israel not to retaliate," said the source, adding that the fallout of an Israeli attack on key Iranian sites "will affect all the region".

Another Gulf source with knowledge of official thinking revealed to Reuters that Gulf states, Iraq and Jordan are pushing both Iran and Israel's main backer the United States not to escalate. Washington was already pressing Israel to show restraint, both sources said.

At the same time, the United States was using Gulf countries to convey messages to Iran not to escalate any further, the source with knowledge of official thinking added.

"It is clear that America is using Gulf Arab allies to convey messages between Iran and the Americans. Saudi Arabia is maintaining contacts with Iran and there is an understanding to contain things," the source said.

Still, both the sources as well as analysts in the Gulf believed the most dangerous moment may have passed.

"The Iranians took their shot," said Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre close to government circles, indicating that for Tehran, the escalatory phase was over and that Washington did not want an escalation from Israel.

De facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tried for years to focus on his ambitious vision of developing mega projects in the kingdom that are free from geopolitical distractions.

Saudi economic ambitions were at the heart of Riyadh's push for detente with Iran, but the kingdom was also very concerned about security, said Saudi analyst Aziz Algashian told Reuters.

"It's not just about the projects in our prosperous region... It doesn't want to be caught in the crossfire between Israel, Iran and the United States," he said.

The fact that detente might allow Gulf states to bring down regional tensions was probably regarded in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as confirmation their policy was working, Algashian said.

"If there wasn't Saudi-Iranian normalisation and rapprochement, Saudi Arabia would be far more anxious right now," he said.

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