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Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that Western warships stationed in the Gulf are "best targets" for Iran if its nuclear sites are attacked.

 

“Why are there so many warships there? The Westerners know that these warships are the best target for operation by Iran if they do anything against (us)," Vahidi told a conference in Tehran.

 

At a landmark Israeli-German joint cabinet meeting in Berlin in the same week, media reports indicated that Israel intends to station one of its German-made Dolphin submarines in the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Israel's use of the dolphin submarine in exercises in the Red Sea aroused fears that Israel may seek to maintain a continued presence in the Arabian Gulf as soon as it receives its submarines from Germany in 2011-2012.

 

The past two weeks have also experienced increased tensions between the West and Iran.

 

January 19, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The increasing tense situation between the West and Iran carries serious repurcussions for the GCC states.

 

Iran has traditionally maintained a strong expatriate population in the Gulf, even at times of indirect open hostilities between Iran and the GCC during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s. There is also a considerable Shiite minority in the GCC who will likely be sympathetic to Iran if attacked by the West. This is particularly the case where the local Shiite population has felt that it is not part of the government, such as in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and to a less extent Kuwait.

 

However, a military confrontation between the West and Iran now will inevitably involve GCC states. The easiest targets for the Iranians are Western interest in the GCC. Although this has been acknowledged for a long time, the fact that it has been reiterated by the Iranian defense minister confirms this. As the likelihood of a West-Iran confrontation increases, so do the threats to Western interest in the GCC. Although the warning was not directly against GCC states, attacks against Western interests in GCC can have devastating consequences on those states.

 

Iran’s large expatriate communities in the GCC will almost certainly include “sleeper cells” who would strike against Western interests in GCC states. However, such a risk is minimized as elements of the Iranian regime have personal business interests in the GCC, most notably Dubai. If on the other hand, Western threats against Iran threat the very existence of the Iranian regime, the likelihood of an activation of those sleeper cells increases. The statement by the Iranian defense minister acts as a reminder of the threats to the GCC states should a confrontation between the West and Iran materializes.

 

The following figure shows the percentage of Shiites in the local populations in GCC states: