Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friendlier hands across the Gulf

The Economist (UK)

On the same day on which a new American National Intelligence Estimate overturned previous assertions that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons, President Ahmadinejad made a first-ever appearance as a guest at the annual summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a body created in 1981 largely with the goal of containing revolutionary Iran. Soon after the summit meeting, Saudi Arabia, the biggest by far of the GCC's six member states and long the most hostile to Iran, invited Mr Ahmadinejad to take part in the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca ... However much they dislike Iran's mullahs, Gulf Arabs dislike more the idea of getting caught up in a war between Iran and America. In recent months they have not been especially happy with their erstwhile American ally, despite the Bush administration's belated effort to address Arab concerns over Palestine and to disentangle itself from Iraq ... Cross-Gulf trade is growing fast. Bahrain itself recently signed a deal to import Iranian natural gas. And this link pales by comparison with the flourishing trade between Iran and Dubai, the most mercantile of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

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