Din bhar ki news | Between diplomatic advances of recent years with warring parties and being located geographically in the crossfire, Saudis and Emiratis uniquely positioned to mediate calm

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, arrives in Abu Dhabi to offer condolences to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, third, right, on the passing of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the late president of the UAE, at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, May 16, 2022. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

REUTERS – Gulf states are pushing to stop a full-blown regional war after Iran’s unprecedented retaliatory strikes on Israel, sources in the region said, fearing new escalation could put them on the front lines of a conflagration and ruin plans to reshape the region.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular may be well placed to triangulate between Iran, Israel, and the United States, after diplomatic advances in recent years that benefited all those countries.

As allies of Washington, Gulf monarchies have sought to stabilize ties with Iran and Israel to resolve longstanding security concerns and allow them to focus on national projects.

Din bhar ki news | The UAE and Bahrain signed a normalization deal with Israel in 2020 and Saudi Arabia was considering a similar agreement also involving a US defense pact until the Gaza war torpedoed diplomacy. Riyadh also buried the hatchet with Iran last year, after years of feuding.

However, the policy of detente now faces its greatest ever threat, as the risk to wider regional peace raised by Israel’s conflict with Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza since October 7 – when Hamas terrorists killed nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253 – comes to a head.

A direct war between Israel and Iran could swiftly expand to Gulf states whose air space lies between the pair, and which host several military bases of the United States, which has vowed to defend its ally Israel.

This video grab from AFPTV taken on April 14, 2024, shows explosions lighting up Jerusalem sky during Iranian attack on Israel (AFPTV / AFP)

“Nobody wants an escalation. Everybody wants to contain the situation,” said a Gulf source close to government circles, adding that there was probably wide telephone diplomacy under way.

“The pressure is not on Iran alone. The pressure is now on Israel not to retaliate,” said the source, adding that the fallout of an Israeli attack on key Iranian sites “will affect all the region.”

Din bhar ki news | Another Gulf source with knowledge of official thinking said Gulf states, Iraq and Jordan are pushing both Iran and Israel’s main backer, the United States, not to escalate. Washington was already pressing Israel to show restraint, both sources said.

At the same time, the United States was using Gulf countries to convey messages to Iran not to escalate any further, the source with knowledge of official thinking added.

“It is clear that America is using Gulf Arab allies to convey messages between Iran and the Americans. Saudi Arabia is maintaining contacts with Iran and there is an understanding to contain things,” the source said.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Riyadh on November 11, 2023. (Iranian Presidency / AFP)

Reuters has requested comment from both Saudi Arabia and the UAE on how they are handling the crisis.

Still, both the sources as well as analysts in the Gulf believed the most dangerous moment may have passed.

“The Iranians took their shot,” said Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Center close to government circles, indicating that for Tehran, the escalatory phase was over, and adding that Washington did not want an escalation from Israel.

Din bhar ki news | Risks

There have been many recent reminders of Gulf states’ vulnerability.

Iran on Saturday seized a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow stretch of water through which most Gulf energy exports pass, and has threatened to close shipping lanes there entirely.

Meanwhile Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group, against which Saudi Arabia was fighting for years until moving towards a peace deal in December, has repeatedly attacked shipping and deployed drones towards Israel, skirting Saudi airspace in recent months.

Before peace talks gained momentum last year, the Houthis had attacked in recent years key Saudi Arabian energy facilities several times and retain the capacity to do so again.

In 2019, they hit key facilities in Saudi Arabia that process the vast majority of the country’s crude oil output and in 2022 they attacked three oil tanker trucks in the UAE.

“A conflagration will see the price of oil shooting up. The traffic of oil will be affected,” the source said, describing likely outcomes of a wider regional war.

Houthi supporters protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/ Osamah Abdulrahman)

De facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has for years tried to focus on his ambitious vision to develop mega projects in the kingdom free from geopolitical distractions.

Saudi economic ambitions were at the heart of Riyadh’s push for detente with Iran, but the kingdom was also very concerned about security, said Saudi analyst Aziz Algashian.

Din bhar ki news | “It’s not just about the projects in our prosperous region… It doesn’t want to be caught in the crossfire between Israel, Iran, and the United States,” he said.

The war in Gaza had already put policies of entente under strain.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain made peace with Israel in 2020 through the so-called “Abraham Accords,” and Saudi Arabia was considering following suit in return for US security commitments.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Iran last year put aside decades of destructive feuding that had fueled conflicts around the region with a deal to restore diplomatic ties and avoid harming each other’s interests.

But the devastation in Gaza has derailed further moves towards peace with Israel, and Iran’s backing of regional Shiite Muslim allies that have targeted US bases in Iraq and elsewhere has raised concerns in the Gulf.

The fact that detente might allow Gulf states to bring down regional tensions was probably regarded in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as confirmation that their policy was working, Algashian said.

“If there wasn’t Saudi-Iranian normalization and rapprochement, Saudi Arabia would be far more anxious right now,” he said.