President Bush wants US allies in the Persian Gulf to help him isolate Iran, but they are in a contradictory mood these days. This analyst directs the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says Arab leaders in the Gulf have two fears, ï¿½The first fear is that the US isn't going to do anything about Iran and is going to leave them to their mercies. The second thing is that the US is going to do something about Iran and leave chaos in its wake. And people feel both of those things with equal intensity and sometimes will talk about them in precisely the same conversations.ï¿½ ï¿½Arab governments are in a very difficult position,ï¿½ this analyst is from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, ï¿½They don't want to see Iran get the bomb and they don't want to see Iran get bombed. And they're very concerned about Iran's growing role in Iraq and Iran's growing role in Lebanon. But what they've seen in the last few years is that the US doesn't really have any effect at all, they haven't really been able to check Iran's ascendancy in the region. And if you compare Iraq's role in the region to Iran's role in 2002, it's far, far greater than it was in 2002.ï¿½ And so Arab governments have begun to conduct their own diplomacy with Iran. This man is the author of ï¿½Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.ï¿½ He says Arab states do see Iran as a threat but they don't think US policy will make it less so. They fear US policy will either provoke a way or results in a deal which leaves them in the cold, so they are hedging their bets by engaging Iran on their own. the author cites several recent overtures, ï¿½They Qataris invited the Iranian President to a meeting. Not to be outdone, the Saudis invited the Iranian President to come as the King's special guest. Egyptians have been sending delegations to Iran and vice versa, discussing normalization of ties. So there's a tremendous amount of diplomatic activity going on there that's completely contradictory to what the President would like to see.ï¿½ Even as President Bush makes the case of isolating and possibly confronting Iran, he has been undercut by new intelligence estimates. They suggest that Iran has backed off its nuclear ambitions. This woman is a Senior Fellow at the US Institute of Peace. She says regional fears of a US confrontation with Iran are undoubtedly influencing the current talks Arab leaders are having with President Bush, ï¿½I'm sure behind the scenes they are trying to convince him to tone down the rhetoric, not to exacerbate tensions in the region. If there were to be some sort of military clash between the United States and Iran, the Arab Gulf states are likely to be the real victims of this, Saudi oil fields, the Shiites in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia certainly could show their discontent. So I'm sure they're urging him to please calm down.ï¿½ In fact they may be urging him to rethink his whole approach. Again the Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst, ï¿½I'm not sure that countries in the region are as confident as the US is that this problem can be solved. They're used to managing problems, they manage a lot of problems, and a lot of very difficult ones. And often times they'd rather manage a difficult problem than take a big risk to fix it.ï¿½ the Bush administration by contrast has taken by risks to fix problems in the region and is now dealing with the fall out. Part of that fall out is a confounding stand off with Iran.
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