Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 07:01 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 07:01 | SYDNEY

Gulf: Bob Gates has a deal for YOU!


Rodger Shanahan


10 September 2009 09:38

Further to Sam's recent post about US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the creation of an Iranian bogeyman to boost US arms sales, it was interesting to note US Secretary of Defense Gates' views in a recent al-Jazeera interview that greater security cooperation between Gulf Arab states and with the US would be a good disincentive to Iranian nuclear aspirations.

The logic of this view is a bit hard to follow. Iran's nuclear push centres around its nationalist aspirations to achieve nuclear status and partly in the belief that it will provide a degree of security against external aggressors. While it has territorial disputes with some Gulf countries, they do not figure in the least in Iran's nuclear calculus, so better security cooperation between Gulf states is hardly going to influence Iran's nuclear program.

And anyway, Gulf security cooperation is something often talked about but rarely achieved, as the Peninsula Shield experiment showed. The disparity in size and capabilities between countries means that Gulf states are always wary that greater cooperation eventually means Saudi domination. Gulf states' hosting of major US land (Kuwait), air (Qatar, UAE) and naval (Bahrain) assets is in their view a much better security insurance than intra-Gulf security accords.

So why raise the issue of greater security cooperation and Iran in the same breath? The Gates logic is that, if you are wary of an Iranian missile threat, then the US has excellent anti-missile defence systems just right for you. Even better if we can have an integrated Gulf air defence system, where all countries cooperate on missile defence. But the integration can only be achieved if we are all buying systems from the one supplier that can integrate them successfully.

With aggressive French, Russian and British competitors all seeking to sell equipment to the region in tough economic climes, crying 'Iran and security cooperation' may well be just be another high-powered sales pitch. 

Photo by Flickr user Dr Akomodi, used under a Creative Commons license.