Two landmark events in the Persian Gulf this week attested to Tehran’s confidence that it has escaped the threat of a military clash with the US and Israel over its nuclear program – certainly in the Persian Gulf. By the same token, Iran is no longer threatening to block the Straits of Hormuz to Gulf oil exports in reprisal for this attack.
One of those events, as noted by debkafile’s military and Gulf sources, is the rapid détente between Tehran and the United Arab Emirates. Tuesday, Dec. 10, unnamed Gulf officials announced that Iran and the UAE were close to an agreement for the return to the Emirates of three Iranian-occupied islands in the Arabian Gulf.
The other event was the conspicuous absence of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit taking place in Kuwait this week.
The Sultan has been a live wire in the back-channel dialogue between President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani, which led up to the Geneva interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program last month. His absence told GCC members that Oman had chosen to stand aside from Saudi dictates for the approval of anti-Iranian resolutions that would derail the deals struck between the US and Iranian presidents. GCC resolutions must be unanimous.
Muscat and Washington were undoubtedly in accord on this step.
In sum, two of the most influential GCC members, the UAE and Oman, have set out on an independent path toward Tehran without regard for Saudi wishes or interests.
They were talked round into isolating Saudi Arabia by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during his two-day tour of the Gulf emirates last week.
The three islands at issue, Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, located in the mouth of the Strait of Hormus (see attached map) were seized by Iran in 1971, during the reign of the Shah. The UAE has consistently claimed they are sovereign territory and demanded their return.
Our military sources report that the Islamic Republic of Iran never heeded that demand and instead, its Revolutionary Guards established on Abu Mussa large naval, air force and missile bases. Deployed there are 500 mostly short-range shore-to-sea missiles capable of blocking Hormuz to shipping, including oil tankers.
According to our sources, Tehran is willing to discuss sharing the disputed islands’ future with the UAE, but not to dismantle is military bases on Abu Mussa or evacuate military personnel.
To make this point clear, over Iran has just shipped 10 SU-25 Frogfoot assault planes capable of ground and sea attack to the island air base.
These warplanes are the backbone of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force.
A US military spokesman Sunday, Dec. 8, confirmed their arrival on Abu Musa, but declined to answer questions about a possible American response to the new Iranian military movements in the most sensitive part of the Persian Gulf.
The UAE also refrained from protest while carrying on negotiating with Tehran on the future of the islands. The Emirates are obviously determined to reach an understanding with Iran – not just on the three islands but also over the vast gas reserves under their waters.
The coming DEBKA Weekly, out next Friday, Dec. 13, offers exclusive new details about the aggressive foreign policies Tehran is pursuing in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Syria – without the Obama administration venturing to demur.
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