Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 23:35 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 23:35 | SYDNEY

Iran: When will the neighbours pop in?


Rodger Shanahan


14 August 2009 10:36

As this earlier post pointed out, reactions from Iran's Gulf Arab neighbours to the disputed 2009 presidential election were muted, to say the least. This reflects a general GCC policy of non-interference in the political affairs of neighbours, an understanding that autocracies passing judgement on the democratic processes of another would be slightly hypocritical, and an unwillingness to upset Iran for no appreciable political gain.

In the world of diplomacy there are levels of acceptance, and non-criticism or even congratulatory messages rank quite low on the recognition scale. Senior level visits signal a much broader level of support for a country's government, and it is here that real insights into the warmth of bilateral relations can be gleaned.
Little surprise, then, that the two GCC states with the closest relations with Iran have been the quickest off the mark. The Qatari Chief of Staff met with Iran's Defence Minister and the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force on 7 July, and the Sultan of Oman became the first foreign head of state to meet with Mahmoud Ahmedeijad the day after his inauguration on 4 August.
The Sultan of Oman's visit was his first to Iran in his 30 years in power, and the signing of several agreements (including one on security cooperation) reflected the long-standing historical ties between the two countries. It also illustrates the ability of countries such as Qatar and Oman to steer an independent course in a troubled region by cultivating good relations with both Iran and the West.

Qatar hosts US forces at the giant al-Udeid airbase while sharing the giant North Field/South Pars gas field with Iran. Oman signed the Facilities Access Agreement with the US in 1980 and hosts UK and US forces at the same time as entering a $12 billion contract with Iran to jointly develop the latter's Kish gas field.
And the rest of Iran's neighbours? Well, Tehran may have to wait a while before they drop around for a visit. While the GCC's Secretary-General did praise Sultan Qaboos for his decision to pay an official visit to Iran, we all know where congratulatory messages sit on the scale of acceptance.

Photo by Flickr user not anyron, used under a Creative Commons license.