Iran exclusion from maritime security architecture raises concerns amid Israeli Gaza offensive

US Navy destroyers in the Persian Gulf, 2018. Photo credit: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael A. Colemanberry/Released

 NICOSIA – Leaving Iran out of the maritime security architecture of the Persian Gulf is unwise and counterproductive, Anahita Arian, a research associate at Cambridge University’s Centre for Geopolitics, said Thursday.

 Speaking at a panel discussion promoted by the Euro-Gulf Information Centre (EGIC), Arian explained that Iran will continue to expand its naval power, and as long as it continues to be left out of international maritime missions in the Persian Gulf, it will be “disruptive” and “will engage in asymmetrical attacks whenever tensions are on the rise in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East.”

 This raised concerns about how the current Israeli offensive in Gaza will affect maritime security in the region.

 “We know that Iran has been supporting Hamas for years, but at the same time, I think it's pretty clear that Iran is not keen to mingle into this current conflict too much. Hezbollah also looks reluctant,” said Pieter Cleppe, Editor-in-Chief of

 "Personally, I think Israel should be very careful in its response, and I hope that it is not going to get tangled in Gaza for a longer time because this would, of course, increase the chance of regional escalation," he added.

 Countries in the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf region should explore their naval potential, according to Brazilian Naval War College researcher Melissa Rossi.

 “Oftentimes, we're looking at the region only from the perspective of outside powers and how they guarantee security to the region,” she said. The US presence as a force that guarantees security "actually causes, in a way, overreliance," she added.

 The navy of Oman, for instance, is very small despite the size of the country’s coast and its strategic importance, Rossi noted.

  However, the presence of the US is convenient to the Arab Gulf states, according to Arian.

 “All these Arab Gulf states are very much aware and very savvy when it comes to international politics, so they are happy for the United States to put the bill of Persian Gulf security. China is happy with that too,” she said.

 “China is not interested in billing or basically paying for that bill, but it is interested in using the infrastructure that is being paid by the US to conduct its own trade with regional states there,” she added.

 In the context of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, Arian highlights the role of Saudi Arabia in the stabilization of the region. According to her, Israel has been very open about creating peace with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries as a means to isolate Palestinians.

 "It has actually been a strategy of [the Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu since 1996,” she said. “In that regard, Saudi Arabia has gone along with it to a certain extent, but now it could not easily walk back to the negotiating table because the entire Arab world, or more broadly the Muslim world, is very much opposed to what Israel is doing, so Saudi Arabia cannot go and sign a peace deal with Israel.”

 For Arian, that puts Saudi Arabia in a good diplomatic position as the kingdom can compel Israel to go for the Arab peace initiative.

 “Arab states will be pushing for that, whether Israel likes it or not,” she said. “The only exception so far has been basically the UAE, that has signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, but the population there is also not happy with what is going on.”

 Whether Arab states want to deal with the question of Palestine or not, they will be forced to, for destabilization is not in the best interest of these countries’ leaders and regimes, Arian added.