The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies’ Iranian Studies Unit in Doha hosted Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs on October 22, 2020 for a lecture on “Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): A Possible Cooperation”. In his address, Mousavian presented a framework for a possible paradigm shift in Iran-GCC relations, “shifting from the current tension, animosity, and confrontation to friendship, cooperation, and partnership.”

Mousavian began his lecture by noting that decades of rivalry and confrontational policies in Iran-GCC relations effectively sustained and increased tensions in a region already rife with civil turmoil, sectarian wars, and terrorism. He suggested that an understanding of five factors could be vital to initiate cooperation and friendship between Iran and the GCC, as follows:

First, given the blame games and tensions between Iranians and Arabs on the one hand and intra-Arab conflicts on the other, it is important to respect and understand each other’s grievances. Second, in order to promote relations of cooperation and partnership within the region, the concept of “zero hegemony” should prevail, not only between regional powers like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also among external powers like the United States, China, and Russia.

Third, an objective of “security for all,” could help the region to prioritize the achievement of long term and sustainable security. Mousavian indicated that “security at the expense of other neighbors’ security means in practice that instability and mutual hostility will continue for an indefinite period”.

A fourth factor is the achievement of collective economic, political, cultural, and security - military cooperation between the GCC and Iran. This can be best accomplished through a grand bargain between the parties involved.

Finally, Mousavian called for a multilateral dialogue between the P5, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and what he called the “P8”, namely the six states of the GCC plus Iran and Iraq.

The inclusion of United Nations Security Council is necessary due to its role as the international body responsible for maintaining peace and security around the world: “If there is any agreement, it should be based on a multilateral dialogue between the P8 and the P5 and ratified by the United Nations Security Council to become a UNSC resolution, mandatory for every country and especially those in the region”.

To realise these steps, Mousavian proposed a plan of cooperation and partnership that includes the establishment of a Security and Cooperation Organization comprised of all six GCC member states, Iran, and Iraq, according the highest standards of respect for sovereignty, international borders, territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference in internal or external affairs of each other, with the rejection of all threats and use of force – in favor of relations based on equal footing, mutual respect, and shared interests.

The organization of a joint security system links up with the necessary principle of establishment of a joint military task force, working under a comprehensive plan for political, security, economic, cultural, and military relations. Finally, the organization of a conventional arms arrangement and establishment of a WMD-free zone across the Middle East is critically important.

Mousavian ended his talk by stating that the United Nations Security Council needs to launch this cooperation plan by taking the first step: “the United Nations Security Council should adopt a new resolution giving a mandate to the UN Secretary General to establish a regional dialogue forum for discussion of the broad spectrum of security and cooperation issues in this region”. He added that because of mistrust between Iran and its Gulf neighbors, a venue for cooperation and friendship talks between the two parties should be the United Nations Security Council as the guarantor of compliance with agreements. To support progress on these fronts, Mousavian underlined the importance of the adoption of collaborative and peaceful language between Iran and the GCC, with an end to hostile rhetoric, to foster a spirit of cooperation and security in the region.