Iranian Diplomacy: Have the military forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council held maneuvers at this level before?
AM: Yes. This is not the first time that the GCC's military forces have held maneuvers. But the difference in previous maneuvers was that they were in the form of coordination maneuvers between the armed forces of member states of the Island Shield and guest countries such as France, the US and Britain, but there was never any talk of Iran. This time, loyalty to the matter of their claim of sovereignty of the Three Islands is the issue. Therefore, this maneuver is considered a direct threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran. If we consider the comments of the UAE's police chief in conjunction with this maneuver, we can see that they have intensified their tone with regard to Iran. It seems that these countries have their eyes on new forces that have recently entered the region and they are hopeful about them. It is true that the situation is very complicated now, but the publicity around this issue is more alarmist than the reality.
ID: In the past, the UAE spoke of a peaceful resolution of this issue. Can this maneuver be regarded as a hostile act?
AM: UAE officials say they have had an agreement with Iran that no party would revisit this contention over the issue. But Ahmadinejad's visit caused this agreement to be void. Therefore, the UAE feels that Ahmadinejad's visit and the stationing of Revolutionary Guard forces on the Three Islands are a breach of previous agreements. It is for this reason that they have increased their propaganda and are taking security and political steps as well. The UAE has itself claimed that these steps have been in reaction to what happened.
However, I think that conditions in these countries are such that they need such an advantage. These countries have had some plans in the region that have been disrupted. One was the issue of Syria, on which they could not have much influence. The GCC had decided to topple the Assad regime. They paid high costs for this matter as well. The second issue was Iraq's success in organizing the Arab League Summit. This was a very important point that caused the GCC to feel weak and embarrassed in the face of the rising power of Iraq. The third point was the developments in Bahrain and Yemen, which have created a fragile state for this council, especially its most important members such as Saudi Arabia.
The situation in Saudi Arabia's eastern region is also unclear and unpredictable. In addition to all of these issues, the Baghdad nuclear meeting is also of importance.
Following Obama's letter to Iran and also the US’ and Europe’s hopefulness with regard to the Istanbul meeting with Iran, GCC member countries thought that the US was closing the gap with Iran. Arab countries benefit from hostile relations between Iran and the West. This is one factor, at this juncture, that causes these countries to try to show their people that they are still strong and can stand up to Iran and still have allies, and also want to send the US a message that a US reconciliation and agreement with Iran will not solve the problem these countries have with Iran.
ID: It appears that, in recent weeks, several fighter aircraft have been transferred to military bases in Qatar and the UAE and that the military arrangement in the Persian Gulf has been altered to a certain extent. How would you evaluate this serious military arrangement?
AM: The presence of F-22s in the Persian Gulf does not seem very important, because these fighters are air-to-air and they rarely target ground targets, unless there is a high necessity. Therefore, the presence of these fighters does not cause much concern. The Islamic Republic of Iran's aircraft are not of a high level and Iran has never claimed to have a powerful air force in the region. If the Iranian air force were powerful, this issue would be worrying. Thus, it seems that the deployment of these aircraft to the Persian Gulf region is just a way to empty the pockets of these oil-exporting countries that have gained a large amount of money due to the rise in oil prices. It seems that these measures are just a way to justify the domestic image of these Arab countries.
ID: Taking into consideration that the nuclear negotiations in Baghdad will take place on the 23rd of May, and that there is hope for these talks to be fruitful, how can these military activities be assessed?
AM: I think the US is following two parallel issues at this stage: on one hand, it tries to assure Arab countries that they should not worry and assures them of the US' presence by their side; apart from this issue, the US tries to take steps towards a better understanding with Iran. The US is currently in a presidential campaign season and both these American actions should be evaluated in the election atmosphere.
Therefore, the sheikhs of the region are concerned because they do not know what is going on behind the scenes of US-Iran relations and they do not know whether these two countries will reach an understanding or not. They know that they have little influence on US foreign policy. So I think discussion and dialogue between Iran and the US and the West is strategically very important, and it will be pervasive.
ID: What do you think Iran's reaction should be to the maneuvers that are taking place?
AM: I think that, because the US has a presence in the region and it does intervene in regional issues, when a presence is currently considered unfriendly, Iranian authorities can protest these actions. Reciprocal maneuvers by Iran can also be an appropriate response to these actions. But it still seems that the diplomatic option should be followed. Dialogue should continue and both sides should be reassured.
Therefore, it seems that Iran can assure these small countries that they should feel no threat from Iran. Apart from this, political and diplomatic initiatives can be instrumental in this regard. There are three ally countries in the region: Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, and Qatar. These three countries can be helpful in solving mutual problems.