In a rare display of unity, conservative Persian Gulf Arab states have called on the United Nations to extend its arms embargo on Opec member Iran in a move likely to stoke regional tensions.
The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sent a letter to the UN Security Council on Sunday, seeking an extension of an arms embargo that has kept Iran from purchasing fighter jets, tanks and naval vessels.
The GCC — comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — alleged Iran had “not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighbouring countries, directly and through organisations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”
The move is remarkable as Qatar and Oman have traditionally kept close ties with Tehran.
A Saudi-led coalition is fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the US accused of receiving arms from Iran. Tehran denies arming the Houthis.
The letter also said Iran arms Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria and allegedly provides weapons to Shia militias in Iraq and “terrorist groups” in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
“UN restrictions establish a consensus understanding of the threat to peace and stability Iranian proliferation represents,” the GCC said in the letter signed by General-Secretary Nayef al Hajraf on behalf of the bloc.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemned the GCC letter and called it an “irresponsible” statement that serves US interests.
The UN banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear programme.
Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal saw the UN agree to sunset the arms embargo this October. President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018, part of a maximum pressure campaign that has crippled Iranian crude exports and led to tension in the volatile Gulf region.
Iran is widely blamed for devastating airstrikes on Saudi oil facilities and attacks on oil tankers in the Persian last year as Tehran’s relations with its Arab neighbours worsened amid their support of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
That the GCC offered a unified statement on Iran comes as it remains torn by the ongoing Qatar crisis, which saw Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates cut diplomatic ties and launch a boycott of the nation beginning in 2017.
Amid the crisis, Qatar has had warmer ties with Iran and used its airspace while sharing a vast offshore oil and gas field with Tehran.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates long have viewed Iran far more suspiciously, accusing it of stirring up dissent among Shiite populations in the region.
The unified GCC statement comes after recent visits by outgoing US special representative for Iran Brian Hook. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the GCC move.
“The US will introduce a resolution this week to extend the embargo after years of diplomacy,” Pompeo said .
The Security Council “must choose between arming terrorists or standing by the” GCC, he added.