In my last post I addressed the issue of Turkish involvement in the bilateral negotiations between the UN’s P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In order to get a fuller picture of the geopolitical implications of these talks, it would be wise to take a look at some important regional developments:
A recent leak from the British Times revealed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow included more than just negotiations about Russia’s decision to sell the Iranians S300 air-defense missiles. During his stay, Netanyahu is alleged to have provided Medvedev with a list of Russian scientists and engineers working on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
In an effort to strengthen Arab political consensus, King Abdullah al Saud of Saudi Arabia is expected to visit Syria to meet with President Bashar al Assad. Saudi officials report that the purpose of the visit is to encourage the Syrians to loosen their ties with Iran and consider Arab cooperation on political and security issues. Saudi-Syrian relations soured back in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who held dual citizenship with Saudi Arabia. Syrian officials praise the visit as a restoration of their political stature in the region.
The Persian Gulf states are in a unique position during these bilateral negotiations. These states can choose either to become Iranian satellite states, or to join a growing Arab political bloc against an Iranian bomb. Economics play a key role, especially in the Gulf’s oil trade. The Independent reported this week that the Gulf States, along with China, Russia, Japan and France, are planning to replace the US dollar with a currency basket for trading oil. This currency basket would include Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Moving away from the dollar would weaken the US’ influence in OPEC politics and the global oil trade. The Iranian Central Bank Commissioner, Mahmoud Bahmani, has claimed that Iran is already making substantial profits from selling oil for reserves of other currencies.
In terms of regional security, the Kuwaiti Al- Seyassah newspaper reported an announcement by German intelligence that Tehran has deployed approximately 3,000 Qods Force spies to the Persian Gulf. Many of these agents work out of Iranian embassies in the region and have the assignment of forming contingency plans in light of a military strike on Iran. Western intelligence sources believe that Qods Force operates as an elite military force that funds proxy wars from Lebanon, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Back in the United States, the Obama administration has decided to deny funding to the Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Connecticut. This is the first time in the past five years that the US State Department has denied the Center’s funding request. This development may be due to big government deficits, but it is more likely that this denial reflects a subtle diplomatic concession to the Islamic Republic.
Finally, speaking at a CNN/George Washington University Forum in Washington, D.C. last night, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates hinted at the possibility of more secret nuclear sites in Iran. When asked about Gates’ confidence in the verification protocol for Iran’s low enriched uranium, the Secretary replied that the administration’s attitude toward Iranian proliferation would be contingent on “what nuclear sites might they be prepared to be transparent about that have not been declared at this point.”
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