Did Iran misinterpret the Gulf Message and new developments?

In an article for Al Arabiya by Sawsan Al Shaer, a Bahraini journalist, she writes, “Let’s remember that the Iranian public rhetoric is only a part of Iranian policy and it does not reflect its real stance. Iran escalates this rhetoric, which is a negotiating tool, to satisfy the revolutionary audience, as it calls it. It uses it to negotiate but it does not signify the magnitude of concessions which Iran may make to maintain its regime and interests if it’s prepared to sit in negotiations, and it’s now in a situation where it’s forced to negotiate with Russia, America and Gulf countries.”

Not understanding that the message was delivered at the insistence of Gulf countries, who think it’s necessary to give Iran a chance to to be sensible and prevent an Iranian-American clash, Al Shaer believes that Iran read the Gulf message as weakness, and that Iran responded by saying Gulf countries, and not Iran, “must seize this opportunity which may not be repeated”.  The possibility of an Iranian-American clash increase by the day, which is not in the interest of the region.

Iran only sees from its own viewpoint, and thinks that because it has an advantage in affairs Gulf countries would like to resolve, it’s negotiating position is strong, and this weakens the Gulf stance.  According to Al Shaer, “All Iran needs is to gain more time by neutralizing the Gulf stance via a series of long negotiating sessions, which it can use to alter reality as much as it can. Iran also views the different Gulf positions as a chance to divide its unity and shake its coherence.”

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani  response was, “Gulf countries and not Iran must seize the opportunity which may be their last” to Muscat and Kuwait.

Iran also misread the news that Michael Flynn, American President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, had resigned. It cheered because Flynn had warned Iran not to play with fire and not to test the new American president’s decisiveness. 

“Iranian dailies considered Flynn’s resignation as a godly vendetta in their favor. This is a short-sighted analysis as the circumstances of Flynn’s resignation have nothing to do with the new American stance towards Iran but it’s related to American-Russian ties which none of the American parties dare be negligent about,” writes Al Shaer.

Iran did not notice an entire team was approaching, basing their policy on strategic interests, as a majority of Republicans and the American military think the policy of appeasement that has existed in the region is a threat to the US. They believe that this policy escalated terrorism and jeopardized international security. They agree that Iran has a major role in this escalation, and that the time has come to put things back to normal.

James Mattis, US Secretary of Justice, is a staunch critic of the nuclear agreement and of Obama’s policy towards Iran. Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency Director, is known being hostile toward Iran and the nuclear deal.  He once Tweeted that he looked “forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” A majority of American legislators and cabinet members almost completely agree on being strict in its approach to Iran’s behavior in the region.

Israel may want to keep the nuclear agreement, but it supports tightening sanctions on Iran to limit its support of organizations that threaten its security.  Additionally, Iran must consider the Russians’ nervousness about their obstruction of the Astana meeting, and their insistence that Hezbollah does not exit Syria.  Iran may be facing an international consensus that agrees on the necessity to confront it, this conviction is no longer limited to Gulf countries. The Gulf message was that, while mechanisms may differ, the goal is agreed on.