Relations Warm Between Iran and Gulf Arab Neighbors

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(The Economist) — RELATIONS between Iran’s Shia revolutionaries and the rich, Sunni-dominated, American-protected Arabian monarchies of the Persian Gulf have never been easy. After America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Iran’s election of the fire-breathing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005, they grew markedly worse. Arab fears of Iran’s regional ambitions, its influence over Shia minorities and its nuclear programme have lately been matched by Iranian worries about the loyalty of its own Arabs and the possibility of an attack launched from the American bases that speckle the opposite shore.

But recent events signal a possible change. On the same day on which a new American National Intelligence Estimate overturned previous assertions that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons, President Ahmadinejad made a first-ever appearance as a guest at the annual summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a body created in 1981 largely with the goal of containing revolutionary Iran. Soon after the summit meeting, Saudi Arabia, the biggest by far of the GCC‘s six member states and long the most hostile to Iran, invited Mr Ahmadinejad to take part in the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Another Arab heavyweight, Egypt, has also joined the charm offensive, sending its first high-level delegation to Iran in several years… Click for full article

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