This very real fear is prompting the oil-rich states to enhance their defenses while hoping that diplomacy can rein in Tehran’s regional ambitions and put an end to its worrying nuclear program.
Tension has escalated as the West continues to squeeze Tehran over its nuclear program, with the EU threatening a total ban on Iranian oil imports.
Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz - which links the Gulf to the Arabian Sea and through which 20% of the world’s sea-transported oil flows - if its petroleum sales are blocked.
The United States, whose Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, and which has a military presence in a number of other countries, has told Tehran bluntly that it will not tolerate any such move.
Many times in the past, Iran has warned that it would attack US military facilities in the Gulf Arab states in the event of war.
The “Mashreq” website, which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has said targets in the Gulf have already been selected, according to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, whose country has tried in the past to bridge the gap between Tehran and Gulf nations, said the latter should contribute to resolving the crisis.
“I think all of us have an interest in not having any conflicts in the Gulf,” he said recently, saying the Gulf states are “obviously worried” by the rising US-Iranian tension.
“We have experienced military conflicts and we all know that there is no winner in such conflicts, especially for the countries around the Gulf,” he said.
In addition to external threats, Gulf states have to deal with the threat of so-called sleeper cells that Iran is suspected of deploying across the region. The desire to avoid war is accompanied by a wish to curb Iran’s increasing regional influence.
Saudi Arabia’s major oil terminal of Ras Tanura, for instance, is only some 180 kilometers (111 miles) away from Iran’s shores. Abu Dhabi, another major Arab oil producer is only 220 kilometers (136 miles) away.
As they wait, Gulf States are stepping up their defense purchases. Last month, Saudi Arabia signed a deal worth $29.4 billion to buy 84 US F-15 fighter jets, and upgrade 70 other jets.
Earlier in 2011, the United States and Saudi Arabia announced a $1.7 billion deal to strengthen Patriot missile batteries, while Kuwait bought 209 missiles for $900 million.
Source: Khaleej Times; Al-Hayat