GCC 'must face up to Tehran'
Manama, July 14, 2008
Former US defence secretary William Cohen has urged Bahrain and other Gulf countries to be prepared to confront any acts of aggression from Iran.
He also called on the GCC to pressure Iran into helping bring an end to fighting in Iraq and decrease regional tensions.
"Firstly, through the Gulf Co-operation Council, Gulf states must let Iran know they stand ready to confront acts of aggression," he said.
"A unified counterweight to Iranian belligerence may be the best deterrent. The US would support Gulf leaders in their effort to reduce regional tensions."
"Secondly, Gulf states and the US must increase dialogue with Iran through financial, economic and diplomatic channels, not just through our militaries."
"When the US and Bahrain share information, we block Iran's growing influence and better understand each other's 'redlines' with Iran.
"Such exchanges would lay an important foundation for strong regional relationships years and decades into the future."
The former head of the US military, who served as Defence Secretary from January 1997 to January 2001, suggested Gulf countries could help Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders bolster moderates within their own factions.
He also says a clear message should be sent that politically motivated terrorist attacks were not the solution.
"In my view, the top priority for Gulf states should be making it clear to Iran that they have an interest in bringing about a stable Iraq and thus we must all find constructive ways to work together to do so," said Cohen, who was appointed as defence secretary by Bill Clinton.
"Next would be encouraging moderate Gulf states to join together in sending the message that each of the religious groups in Iraq must move from this notion of zero tolerance to coexistence."
His comments appear in The Report: Bahrain 2008, the latest of the annual business publication from Oxford Business Group (OBG).
In an interview he also urges Gulf countries to plough more cash into Iraq. "Gulf states should invest some of their increasing wealth in Iraq," he added.
"A growing economy, for which we have begun to lay the foundations, will offer those disenfranchised in society more hope and in turn reduce the inclination of many to turn to violence."
The Report: Bahrain 2008 is published with primary partner the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Securities and Investment Company (SICO) as capital markets partner, Ernst & Young as accountancy partner and Qays Zu'bi as legal affairs partner.-TradeArabia News Service