Authors: Syed Raiyan Amir and Muhammad Estiak Hussain*
On June 2, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani stated that his nation, Saudi Arabia, and three other Gulf states intend to establish a naval alliance that will also include India and Pakistan. He said in the media that “The countries of the region have today realized that only cooperation between each other brings security to the area.” He claimed that an alliance would soon be established to secure regional stability, but he gave no further details. Although those nations which are mentioned are yet to make any official comment on the issue, Iranian leaders assured that a regional naval coalition is in the offing. A new naval alliance will be a major breakthrough that might ignite the possibility of a one Middle East without political divisions and the existence of outside powers. This article seeks to offer an academic study of the expanding Iranian naval alliance and its relevance in determining the future of the Middle East.
Regional Dynamics and Recent Developments
The dynamics of the region have long been dominated by the tense relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are made worse by their conflicting geopolitical objectives and ideological viewpoints. Recent events, meanwhile, have shown a desire to close these divides and pursue cooperation. Iran has recently endeavored to improve its tense relations with a number of Gulf Arab nations. Recently, Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a peace agreement in March after seven years of animosity, with the mediation of China, emphasizing the importance of economic cooperation and regional stability.
As a result, Israel’s attempts to diplomatically isolate Iran have been thwarted by Saudi Arabia’s warming relations with Iran. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reestablished official relations with Iran last year after being the first member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to sign a normalization agreement with Israel in 2020. Bahrain and Morocco later followed the UAE in forging ties with Israel, but current events in the area and Iran’s evolving positive stance toward the Gulf states show that they will follow Saudi Arabia’s lead in attempting to create a single Middle East. These developments underlined the rising understanding among Middle Eastern nations that for long-term stability and prosperity, cooperation rather than confrontation is required.
If Iran can successfully bring all of its neighboring nations into its newly proposed naval alliance, it would create a much-needed sense of trust and confidence among Gulf nations. For too long, these countries have been divided by suspicion and mistrust. This alliance could help to bridge those divides and create a more stable and secure region.
Possible Impacts of Naval Alliance on the Region
The possible impacts of a new maritime alliance in the Middle East are complex and uncertain. Some experts believe that the alliance could help to deter foreign aggression and promote regional stability. Others worry that it could lead to increased tensions and conflict.
Relevance to Regional Security and Prosperity
The security of the region will be significantly impacted by the development of the Iranian naval alliance. The alliance intends to handle security issues such as marine threats and instability in the Persian Gulf by promoting collaboration among these traditionally rival regimes. A unified front can strengthen the area’s capacity to fend off outside attacks and guarantee the security of key economic routes.
Beyond worries about security, economic integration and cooperation are potential benefits of the Iranian naval alliance. The region contains some of the world’s most important shipping routes such as the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. Most importantly, the Middle East has the biggest reserve of oil and gas. The participating nations are aware of the potential advantages of increased investment, commerce, and collaborative infrastructure projects. These countries can unleash the region’s economic potential and improve the quality of life for their citizens by combining their resources and knowledge.
Diplomatic Consequences and Reactions
There are significant diplomatic repercussions from the creation of the naval alliance. It challenges the supremacy of outside powers and reorganizes the Middle East’s conventional relationships. There are two important dynamics here. Firstly, it seems that Iran and other countries in the Gulf are beginning to recognize that their regional proxy conflict is negatively impacting their own development. Secondly, the US has been gradually reducing its involvement in the Middle East and shifting its focus towards East Asia. As a result, Washington is no longer perceived as a solution provider for regional issues.
Interestingly, Iran’s establishment of a fresh naval alliance coincides with the recent decision by the UAE to withdraw from a US-led maritime coalition in the Gulf called Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). The CMF, headquartered in Bahrain since 2001, aims to secure important Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) in the Gulf that are crucial for global oil trade. Additionally, we can see that external powers are already divided in their support or opposition to this newly announced alliance. For instance, the United States has disregarded Iran’s claim, accusing the Islamic Republic of being the primary source of “regional instability.” Tim Hawkins, a spokesperson for the US Fifth Fleet, dismissed Iran’s statements on June 3 and mentioned that the US was strengthening its defense around the Strait of Hormuz. Conversely, China has embraced the initiative and expressed its support, affirming that China “backs regional nations in pursuing development through unity and taking control of their own future.” Experts fear that this new alliance will disregard the US’s influence in the region significantly, whereas China will become a prominent actor through its benign foreign policy posture in the region. The recent visit of the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the upcoming visit of President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia will likely shape the future direction of the US in the Middle East.
On the Unity of the Middle East
The foundation for a unified Middle East is laid by Iran’s evolving positive attitude toward the Gulf nations, as seen by the development of the naval alliance. The acknowledgment of shared interests and the pursuit of cooperation represents a break from the combative approach that has dominated the area for decades, even while problems and disagreements still exist. The geopolitical environment in the Middle East may change as a result of this newly discovered unity.
The development of the Iranian naval alliance is still in its early stages, and it is unclear what effect or success it will have in the long run. The development of a really unified Middle East may be hampered by issues including conflicting interests, old resentments, and outside forces. Despite this, the alliance’s very existence marks a substantial change from earlier dynamics and a move toward a new regional order. A united Middle East would have far-reaching effects on global geopolitics in addition to the security and stability of the area. To properly understand the potential effects and future course of this union, more investigation, and analysis are thus required.
A significant development in the Middle East is the expanding naval alliance between Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations, which also includes India and Pakistan. This establishment of a new maritime alliance signals a shift in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East by illuminating the growing understanding among regional countries that collaboration and unity are necessary for long-term stability and development. Further study is required to evaluate the results of this cooperation because its final success and influence are still unknown. However, there is no denying that the expanding Iranian naval alliance has the ability to reshape regional politics in the coming years and influence the Middle East.
*Muhammad Estiak Hussain is a Research Assistant of The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA). He can be reached at Estiak[at]cbgabd.org