The United Sates officially implemented a new wave of sanctions against Iran November 5, targeting the country’s main economic sectors. Iran reacted with a lot of rhetoric and some threats but amid the tensions the six gulf countries plus Egypt and Jordan seem to maintain their united front against the Islamic Republic.
The next logical step for these countries would have been tightening their military cooperation. The head of United States Central Command Joseph Votel met September 11 with military chiefs from Egypt, Jordan and the six GCC countries and pushed for the formation of a military alliance, (MESA, The Middle East Strategic Alliance). But according to Aljazeera, the plan has been postponed to next year, due to the constrained relations between Saudi Arabia and its western allies over the ongoing investigation of the Khashoggi murder case.
Another reason is the continued dispute between Qatar and four Arab states (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt) over accusations that Qatar is backing Iran and supporting terrorism. The four countries initiated a blockade against Doha back in 2017, cutting off trade and travel ties. Qatar has since denied all accusations.
However, the postponement of the “Arab NATO” did not mean a lessening of Sunni Arab opposition to Iran. During the World Youth Forum held in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh November 6, Egyptian President Abdelfattah El Sisi assured participants that Egypt will “Stand side by side with Gulf and Arab countries”. He also stated that the Egyptian military forces are ready to move in case of any hostility from neighboring countries; a veiled reference to Iran.
Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, speculated in an article in Arabnews that the Iranian regime is putting up a tough in the face of U.S. sanctions, although, if history is any guide, the Iranian regime will try to approach the United States administration behind the scenes.
According to Al Sharq Al-Awsat’s editor in chief Ghassan Sherbil, the U.S sanctions imposed on Iran aim to change its behavior and weaken its regional influence, but not change its current government. Sherbil wrote: “The goal of the Trump administration is to change Iran's behavior, not change its regime. The doors are open to return to the negotiating table if Tehran seriously decides to reconsider its behavior and ambitions”
Pro government Saudi newspaper Al Yaum reported that according to political experts, the Iranian regime has already started plans of action to break U.S. sanctions and smuggle its oil, as it efficiently smuggles weapons to neighboring Arab countries. According to political expert Ahmed Al Rakban, the economic sanctions implemented against Iran will cause turmoil within the country as the people will revolt due to worsening economic conditions, already being felt. He also states that the Iranian people are fed up with their government using the public’s money to support terrorist militias in the region.
UAE news outlet Albayan published a caricature of Iran and Qatar. The caricature portrays Qatar being dragged across the Persian Gulf closer to Iran. This symbolizes the Qatar-Iranian relationship and how Qatar is one of the closest Gulf countries to Iran.