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GCC Summit Gets Tough on Nukes

Leading into the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Abu Dhabi summit, Sunday’s headline read ”Gulf Arab leaders to get tough on Iran and Syria”. The summit, attended by US-friendly nations Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, was billed this year as an arena to discuss and deal with two major regional crises in particular: The Iranian nuclear showdown with the West and the Syrian implication by the United Nations Independent International Investigation Commission in the murder of Rafik Hariri and, potentially, the dozen-plus bombings and attacks that have killed or maimed Lebanese anti-Syria figures. But the contents of the article belied the headline, as a quote from the GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman al-Attiya just before the summit opening foretold of events to come.

“We trust Iran but we don’t want to see an Iranian nuclear plant which is closer in distance to our Gulf shores than to Tehran causing us danger and damage.”

What unfolded during the summit was predictable, as the GCC Secretary-General appeared at the outset at least more concerned with a nuclear power plant leaking from an accident at Bushehr on the other side of the Persian Gulf than with the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons. Israel, after all, is the true threat to MidEast regional stability.

After the meetings, Monday’s Reuters headline read ”Gulf summit raps Israel, not Iran, on nuclear issue”, and the verbiage of the GCC’s Abu Dhabi Declaration reached during the summit was no less surprising than GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman al-Attiya’s comments leading into it.

U.S.-allied Gulf Arab leaders called on Monday for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, but singled out only Israel, not Iran, despite having voiced alarm at Tehran’s nuclear ambitions during their two-day meeting…

…The GCC settled instead for a reiteration of a previous proposal to “turn the Middle East, including the Gulf, into an area free of weapons of mass destruction”.

The final statement said: “The council calls on Israel to join the NPT and to open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It also calls on the international community to press Israel to do so.”

Iran’s nuclear program was left barely addressed, limited to no more than a mention of potential accidents at the Iranian facility closest to the participating Gulf states.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Nuaimi demanded environmental “guarantees and protection” from an Iranian nuclear plant on the Gulf coast.

“We are in a region very close to the (Iranian) nuclear reactor in Bushehr. We have no guarantees or protection against any leakage (from the reactor) which is on the Gulf coast,” he told reporters after the summit.

The stated reason for omitting any strong wording on the largely clandestine Iranian nuclear program was that the GCC members did not want to agitate the Iranian regime, an indication that the mere prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons is already impacting regional relations in the manor that Iran desires such weapons to produce.

But one Gulf official said it was because the GCC — which groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — wanted to keep diplomatic channels open.

“They (GCC leaders) are very worried about Iran’s nuclear programme. They opted for diplomacy so as not to alienate Tehran,” the official told Reuters.

The key difference seen by many between a nuclear Iran and a nuclear Israel is that it is Iran’s stated Foreign Policy to destroy the state of Israel. Israel has no such policy towards any state. If it had, it would have been acted upon.

Despite the lack of substance (the demands made of Israel have been stated by theGCC before), The Khaleej Times declared that there were ”landmark decisions” at the end of the GCC summit. In fact, the summit’s Declaration was tender with Iran and soft on Syria. The only landmark or notable statement was open praise of the democratic elections in Iraq for it’s effect on ‘maintaining Iraq’s unity’. But some may consider this less than genuine coming from leaders who run their countries though power gained by other than democratic means.

Internally in Iran, President Ahmadinejad has declared a new domestic policy outlawing all Western music (including Bach and Beethoven) on Iranian state television and radio broadcasts in an attempt to return the Islamic state to its 1979 revolutionary roots.

This kind of action may explain why reports were at least conceivable that Ahmadinejad had survived an assassination attempt in the Baluchistan region of southern Iran. Iran denied the reports, stating that Ahmadinejad was making a speech elsewhere at the time of the ambush, in which the driver and a member of the IRGC were killed along with one of the ambushing ‘bandits’.

While the Iranian nuclear ambitions and provocative anti-Israel statements are touted by Ahmadinejad for internal nationalistic support and, at the very least, external intimidation, the GCC is achieving little more than confirming the realization of external expectations. At the same time, such policies as the ban on all Western music on Iranian state broadcasts likely erode internal support among the sophisticated Persian population.

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There is considerable merit to the concern that Bushehr poses a real threat to the Persian Gulf environment. Once the fuel cycle has been started, the bunker busting bombs that will be used to destroy the facility have the potential of spreading various plutonium products around the vicinity and into the water.

The possibility of this being the catalyst for a global nuclear exchange is not entirely zero either.