Saudi Arabia Launches a Gulf Summit to Contain Iran threats

Saudi Arabia Launches a Gulf Summit to Contain Iran threats
Saudi Arabia Launches a Gulf Summit to Contain Iran threats

Arab leaders gather in SaudiArabia on Thursday for emergency summits that Riyadh hopes will deliver astrong message to Iran that regional powers will defend their interests againstany threat following attacks on Gulf oil assets this month.

Saudi and the United ArabEmirates, which have lobbied Washington to contain Iran, have said they want toavoid war after drone strikes on oil pumping stations in the kingdom and thesabotage of oil tankers off the UAE coast.

Riyadh accused Tehran of orderingthe drone strikes, which were claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group. Atop U.S. security official said Iranian mines were "almost certainly"used in the tanker operation. Tehran denies any involvement.

Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahimal-Assaf told a gathering of his counterparts in Jeddah ahead of the summitsthat the attacks must be addressed with "strength and firmness".

"While summit leaders arelikely to discuss how best to avoid a war, King Salman is equally determined todefend Saudi and Arab interests amid increasing tensions between the U.S. andIran," Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy,wrote in an opinion piece published by Al Arabiya.

He said the meetings of SunniMuslim Gulf leaders and Arab leaders at midnight in Mecca would discuss Shi'iteIran's "interference" in Arab affairs.

Tensions have risen between theUnited States and Iran after Washington quit a multinational nuclear deal withIran, re-imposed sanctions and boosted its military presence in the Gulf.

U.S. National Security AdvisorJohn Bolton said on Wednesday that the attack near a UAE bunkering hub was connectedto the strike on pumping stations on the kingdom's East-West pipeline — bothalternative oil shipping routes to the Strait of Hormuz — and a rocket attackon Baghdad's Green Zone.

"There is no doubt inanybody's mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it'simportant that the leadership in Iran know that we know," Bolton said ofthe operation against four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers.

He said the United States wastrying to take a "prudent and responsible" approach but warned Tehranagainst any new attacks.

An Iranian official dismissedBolton's remarks as "a ludicrous claim". Iran Republic has said itwould defend itself against any military or economic aggression.

Gulf Faultines

During the U.S. adviser's visitto Abu Dhabi, officials activated a defense cooperation agreement signedearlier this year between the United States and the UAE, which hosts a U.S. airbase.

Gulf states have a joint defenceforce under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but the 39-year-old alliancehas been fractured by a dispute that has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrainand non-GCC Egypt impose a political and economic boycott on Qatar sincemid-2017.

Saudi King Salman invited Qatar'sruler, whose country is home to the largest U.S. military base in the region,to the Mecca summits. Qatar said Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser AlThani would attend, the highest level Qatari official to visit the kingdomsince the rift.

Iraq and Oman, which have goodties with Tehran and Washington, have said they are working to reduce tensions.Doha, which shares a giant gas field with Iran, has offered to help.

Iranian Foreign Minister MohammadJavad Zarif said on a trip to Iraq this month that Tehran wanted balanced tieswith Gulf neighbours and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

One of the UAE's main newspaperssaid in an editorial, which are usually state-approved, that the offer was"bizarre".

"No Mr Zarif. We are notbuying your 'nice neighbour' routine," said the front-page editorial inGulf News daily. 

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