Muna Al-Fuzai

Muna Al-Fuzai

Washington has
tightened its economic sanctions on Iran, but the question people are wondering
about is whether US sanctions on Iran is an escalation towards a destructive
war in the region or just a political maneuver and strategy of maximum
pressure. And what is the future of the Gulf region under this tension?

I think the
situation does not allow anyone to make an accurate prediction of what will
happen in the coming days. Many analysts do not seem to be able to predict a
specific scenario for the future, except for a lot of warnings on the
seriousness of the situation to Iran and the region.

Some countries
expressed concern over US sanctions on Iranian oil exports, saying they would
ignore the sanctions, including India and China. The US administration
reinstated and expanded US sanctions and ordered countries around the world to
stop buying Iranian oil. But not all countries accepted the call. The Chinese
foreign ministry condemned the tightening of US sanctions on Iran. China for example,
is the main buyer of Iranian oil, followed by India, South Korea and Turkey.

But, it is clear
to the observer that the Europeans feel helpless towards the US
administration's current policy because they have no influence on President
Donald Trump and their inability to compensate Iran's economy for possible
damage to US sanctions. Tehran has indicated its intention to resume uranium
enrichment activities if its European partners fail to find a solution to allow
it to overcome the economic consequences of sanctions imposed by Washington.

US threats to
prevent Iran from exporting its oil, followed by the movement of a number of
naval vessels in the direction of the Gulf to respond to Iran's announcement to
retreat from the implementation of some of its obligations in the nuclear
agreement in 2015 led many to wonder what are the risks that threaten the
countries of the region here as a result of this escalation?

I do not think
that the impact of the US sanctions will be on Iran alone, but on other
countries too, especially in the Middle East. Many Gulf States, including
Kuwait, a strategic ally of the United States, have strong and old economic and
political ties with Iran, but how can they be affected by the current
escalating crisis between Tehran and Washington? I think maintaining balanced
relations with the two sides is not going to be easy for Gulf states.

Because of the
intention of the United States to lower Iranian oil exports to zero, Tehran has
threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, saying that if it cannot
export its oil abroad, none of the countries of the region will export oil
through the Hormuz. The American military moving a number of its naval vessels
to the Gulf will not be frightening for a country like Iran, because it will
not give in to these pressures and will not be the only one to be affected by
the complexity of the landscape in the region.

Iran is producing
1.3 million barrels of oil per day according to its commitments to OPEC. I
wonder if the Gulf countries will be able to compensate for this shortage.
Also, I do not think the Gulf states have a desire to enter into a new
challenge in the region. Right now, the region is in a difficult condition with
the continuation of the war in Yemen and its repercussions.

I expect a major
crisis in the oil market that threatens oil supply, which is a high price to
pay, so the situation needs a quick solution to stop the tension in the region
between the two countries, because both scenarios - whether Iran closing the
Strait of Hormuz or America succeeding in "zero" exports of Iranian
oil - will not benefit anyone.

I think that the
positions of the surrounding countries will vary between those who will try to
create a balanced attitude to maintain relations with US and Iran and those who
see Iran as a dangerous enemy to their interests and welcome US pressure. I
expect that this will be hard for countries with economic or political
interests with Iran, such as Turkey and Iraq, with a lower percentage of risk
for a country such as Qatar, which recently headed towards Iran after the Gulf
crisis. Kuwait, as usual, will maintain its diplomatic policy and will try to
maintain a balanced relationship to avoid possible damage if it takes a clear
hostile stand against any party. Let's not forget that the United States and
Iran are Iraq's main political and economic partners.

On the other
hand, Iran still has power in the region and is ready to defend its oil-based
economic interests. Because nearly a year after the United States pulled out of
the nuclear deal, the sanctions do not seem to have changed the Iranian
influence in the region. Iran may ease dependence on oil and promote
self-sufficiency to create an economic model that can continue even under
external pressures. Yet, consumers around the world may be more likely to see a
change in oil prices in the coming months.

Until now, most
experts see the possibility of a war as not possible and consider the situation
as a temporary tension that can be calmed, because closing the Strait of Hormuz
will allow the United States to take the matter as a pretext for war, and this
will harm everyone. So I see that what the United States is doing is a policy
of maximum pressure.

Now there is an
urgent need to remedy the tense situation to avoid further escalation in the
region, because keeping up with US sanctions is difficult for the countries in
the region and European intervention is required to calm the tension, because
the potential damages will be at the expense of Washington's allies and
interests in the world.

By Muna Al-Fuzai