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    Iranian president Hassan Rouhani arrives for a news conference in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2017.

    Coalition of Hope: 'Tehran No Longer Considers Saudi Arabia as Its Regional Rival' – Mid East Expert

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    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has proposed a security strategy for the Gulf, variously known as “Coalition of Hope” and “Hormuz Peace Initiative”. Middle East expert Dr Alam Saleh explained what is behind Tehran's new plan.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to present a plan aimed at ensuring peace in the Persian Gulf region at this week’s UN General Assembly session.

    "The security of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Sea of Oman is indigenous. Foreign forces could cause problems and insecurity for our nation and region", President Rouhani said on 22 September during a military parade commemorating the 39th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War.

    Rouhani's plan reportedly envisages the formation of a coalition of regional powers to maintain control over the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz in an apparent response to the US-led International Maritime Security Construct against the supposed so-called Iran threat. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the initiative in June 2019, following two tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman which Washington blamed on Iran.

    On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif specified that the proposed coalition could include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and possibly Yemen.

    It is expected that Rouhani will deliver his UNGA address on Wednesday, following US President Trump's speech that is scheduled for Tuesday.

    Three Messages Sent by Aramco Attack

    By calling upon Gulf powers to form part of its initiative, Tehran shows that it "no longer considers Saudi Arabia as its regional rival", suggests Dr Alam Saleh, a lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at Lancaster University.

    "By moving beyond regional adversaries Iran is confronting US directly as its only regional rival today," the Middle East expert stresses. "Now and right before UNGA, by offering security coalition in the Persian Gulf, Tehran attempts to isolate US from its regional allies."

    "This is particularly more evident since the recent Aramco attack," says Saleh.

    On 14 September, a drone attack on Saudi oilfields in Abqaiq and Khurais claimed by Yemeni Houthi rebels sliced the kingdom's crude production in half sending oil prices higher and casting a shadow on Aramco's upcoming stock market listing.

    The US and then Saudi Arabia pinned the blame of Iran, throwing into doubt the Houthi rebels' claim of being behind the attack. However, Iran has rejected US-claims of involvement in the attacks.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on 17 September that "the US is in denial" if it thinks that Yemenis wouldn't strike back against Saudi Arabia.  

    ​The drone attack prompted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to join Washington's International Maritime Security Construct with President Trump sending further troops to the region.

    Saleh believes that Iran may have a hand in the recent Aramco strike. According to the scholar, the attack has sent three messages to Gulf nations:

    ·         First, that "American weapons are not reliable since such advanced weapons failed to detect and destroy ordinary drones".

    ·         Second, Trump is "not reliable" too, since he took no military action following the drone attack but "in fact offered more talks".

    ·         Third, that damage could be inflicted "when necessary".

    Tensions have been escalating in the Persian Gulf since Washington's unilateral pull-out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. While the other signatories to the accords have repeatedly pledged commitment to the multilateral deal, the US continues to step up restrictions against the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has several times offered Iran to join it at the negotiating table, but Tehran has made it clear that talks could be launched only if Washington adheres to the JCPOA provisions and lifts punitive sanctions. Apart from economic restrictions, the US is steadily beefing up its military presence in the Gulf together with its partners and NATO allies.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    coalition, Saudi Aramco, Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani, Mohammed Javad Zarif, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz, Middle East, Iran, United States
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