Iran and the Gulf States
- The Persian Gulf states hold some two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves. Saudi Arabia is the largest Gulf oil producer, Iran a distant second.
- Iran’s population of 74.5 million is roughly equal to the seven other Gulf states combined.
- A large population of Iranian nationals lives in the emirate of Dubai, Iran’s most important regional trade partner. Smaller populations live and work in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
- In the post World War II era, Gulf geopolitics have been dominated by a triangular balance of power among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
- The region has experienced three “Gulf wars”: the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 fought to a brutal stalemate, the successful 1991 U.S.-led coalition to roll back Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and the 2003 U.S.-led war to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
- Persian Iran is the only non-Arab country in the Gulf region. Its predominant religion, Shiite Islam, is shared by a majority of Iraqis and Bahrainis and significant minorities in other Gulf states.
- In 2009, Dubai-Iran trade was estimated at $10 billion, a fall from the estimated $12 billion figure in 2008, due to the global financial crisis and tighter controls by U.A.E authorities on Iran trade. New rounds of sanctions and more stringent oversight by Abu Dhabi is expected to lower the trade numbers further in 2010, but Iran remains the U.A.E.’s fourth largest trade partner after China, the United States and India. Most trade represented goods from around the world that land in Dubai ports and are re-exported to Iran.
- Iran and Oman serve as joint “policemen of the Straits of Hormuz,” the world’s most important oil chokepoint. Some two-fifths of the world’s globally traded oil passes through the Strait, which at its narrowest point is only 21 miles wide.
- Iran’s threats to “close down the Strait” in the event of U.S. or Israeli strikes ring hollow, as a closure would damage Iran’s own oil industry, the most vital source of state revenues.
- Qatar has increasingly reached out to Iran, even discussing ways to bring Tehran into regional security discussions.
- The name of the body of water linking these eight states has occasionally sparked diplomatic spats. For Iranians, it is indisputably the Persian Gulf. For many Arab states, it is either “the Gulf” or, more provocatively, “the Arabian Gulf.” Most official atlases refer to the body of water as the Persian Gulf.
- An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could spark a wider regional war with dramatic repercussions for the Persian Gulf region, leading to a skyrocketing oil prices, and potential conflict between Iran and America’s key Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- The world’s major oil players have largely abandoned Iran, but are active in Iraq. If Iraq achieves its ambitious oil targets, it could surpass Iran as the Gulf’s second largest producer within a decade. This would have repercussions for the regional balance of power.
- The Iran-Dubai trade relationship will be tested by sanctions and U.S. pressure. But historic links are too deep to imagine a drastic reduction in trade, even though Iranian merchants may not feel as welcome as in the past.
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"The Iran Primer"--Book Overview
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