Foreign Policy Blogs

Bush in the Middle East

An editorial in today's Middle East Times nails it:

And if indeed the president's concern is the Arab-Israeli dispute, then why the stops in four Gulf countries? Why the visits to Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia? It is interesting to note that those four countries share the same concerns over Iran's rising influence in the region.

…Bush's visit to the region — the Gulf region, that is — might well have more to do with Iran than with the question of Palestine.

Iran has become the single-biggest issue for policy-makers in the region- possibly even more than Iraq.  Bush would love an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal to his legacy, but the real interest is Iran.    The maneuvering between the Gulf States- along with the broader Arab world- and Iran changes on a day-to-day basis.  My guess is Bush wants to shore up support and make some kind of cohesive policy.   He must not like the new willingness to at least partially co-operate with the Iranian government. 

This is especially true in light of the confrontation between the US Navy and the speedboats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp.  According to the US Navy “as the Iranian boats neared the American vessels, a radio threat was issued that the American ships would explode. The verbal warnings broadcast over the internationally recognized bridge-to-bridge radio channel said, "I am coming at you, and you will explode in a few minutes.”

 The Iranian government has denied this.

“What happened between the Guards and foreign vessels was an ordinary identification,” Ali Reza Tangsiri, commander of the Guards naval forces in the region, told the Mehr news agency.

“No special engagement took place between the Guards and the foreign side,” he said, adding that the Guards naval forces had a right to control and identify “any vessel entering Persian Gulf waters” to the northwest.  (AFP)

Tensions are rising in anticipation of Bush's visit.  Iran is now, and will remain for at least the rest of his term, at the front of the President's mind.



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.