Security expert sees possible Iran threat


DOHA: Subjected to military action, Iran could attack the oil installations of Arab Gulf states, says a well-known GCC security expert.

After “failing to provide conditions” that would have made the Istanbul meet a success, Tehran is most likely going ahead with uranium-enrichment plans, says Dr Sami Alfaraj, head of Kuwait-based Center for Strategic Studies.

Alfaraj, who was here on a brief visit, told The Peninsula in an interview that considering the above developments the threat of Iran sponsoring ‘proactive cells’ in the region to hit its energy facilities was real.

He argued that since Iran attacked one of Kuwait’s offshore oil facilities during its war with Iraq (1986-89), its motives vis-à-vis GCC oil facilities were suspect because the leadership that was in the saddle in Tehran at the time is still in control.

The Gulf region is not where locals alone live. Millions of expatriates drawing from as many as 202 nationalities are based here. “All are, therefore, equal stakeholders in peace and stability of the region,” he said.

So expatriates’ view that is the ‘GCC versus Iran’ and not ‘us versus Iran’ needs to be corrected, he suggested. “If a bomb is dropped anywhere in the region, it wouldn’t differentiate between locals and foreigners.”

Plus, the region is quite crucial to the world energy supply security and foreign workers’ remittances that contribute to the economies of so many countries.

Tehran boasts of industrial prowess but the fact is that it has not been able to upgrade its oil production due to lack of technological backup and spare parts because of the US sanctions imposed in 1979. “Iran, in fact, imports benzene.”

“So it is even more envious of the growing oil and gas-related capabilities of the GCC,” said Alfaraj. While it is true that Bahrain has large Shia population, it is not in the interest of the community to back Iran. If there are large numbers of Shia unemployed youth there, there are also affluent Shia businessmen who dominate Bahrain’s trade and industry.

This is the era of the Internet. Ironically, social websites in the Middle East are not about social issues. Rather than people hunting for friends and life partners through the Internet, as is the case with the West, people here air their frustrations and protests (against the powers that be).

Citing Tunisia’s example, Alfaraj warned that Iran talking of war and missiles all the time could stir its youth into protest. “Nobody wants war.” Muslim nations must understand that the Internet can be a powerful medium for progress and reform.

GCC states are development-centric and are collectively spending over a staggering $1tr to revamp their infrastructure. Gulf businessmen are quite keen to invest in Iran, so the latter should rather focus on creating conducive business and investment environment, Alfaraj said.

Iran has compulsory military service for its citizens. But experience suggests that such a practice can at best churn out large numbers of security guards and not technocrats and scientists.

“We are neighbours. We want Iranians to enjoy the same facilities that we do. We don’t want them to feel deprived,” said Alfaraj.      THE PENINSULA


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