Debate over Arab-Iran ties sparks row

December 03, 2012 - 2:08:03 am

Speakers at the two-day symposium organised by the Forum for Arab and International Relations on Arab-Iran relations being held at W Hotel Doha yesterday. The event ends today. Syed Omar

DOHA: Disputes over sharing more than a dozen oil and gas fields by Iran and Gulf countries is one of the factors damaging relations between Iran and the GCC states, according to a speaker at a symposium that is debating Arab-Iran relations. 

Some participants at the symposium were in for surprise when the speaker, a former Iranian ambassador to Germany, said: “Tehran accuses Doha of extracting way more than its share in the joint gas field of South Pars”.

Few expected Seyed Hossein Mousavian to repeat his country’s accusations, of all the places, in Doha, although none in the audience stood up to question the allegation.

The two-day symposium, which opened here yesterday, is organized by the Forum for Arab and International Relations.

Mousavian said Iran shares a number of oil and gas fields with countries like Iraq and GCC states such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

He quoted a visiting fellow of Princeton University: “Qatar and Iran have straws in the same gas field, but only Qatar is sipping.”

It is also interesting to note that the symposium organisers cleverly avoided mentioning, in their banners at the venue, the use of the term ‘Arabian Gulf’. They simply said ‘Gulf’ because Iranians object to the use of the term “Persian Gulf’.

Some speakers said that while Tehran knew how to deal politically with the GCC states, the latter lacked a unified policy vis-à-vis their influential neighbour.

Iran has a well-defined vision as regards its regional and international policies whereas the GCC countries pursue contradictory policies in their relations with Tehran, a speaker said.

Saeed Harib said the policies of the GCC states towards Iran were always reactionary and that explained why Tehran took advantage of developments in the Arab world like Arab Spring and the Syrian crisis to further its interests and influence in the region.

Dr Abdul Khaliq Abdullah, a UAE-based political scientist, blasted Iran and said it viewed the GCC states as its enemy because of their closeness to the US.

He said one of the factors responsible for increasing bitterness between Tehran and the GCC was that the former was trying to emerge a champion of Shia minorities in the Gulf countries.

“Iran underestimates the GCC states, has a superiority complex and takes its silence on the issue of occupation of the three UAE islands as a sign of their weakness,” said Abdullah.

According to Mousavian, if the misgivings between the two sides have to go, the GCC states should do away with the western military presence in the region and set up a joint security panel with Iran.

The Peninsula