Gulf States Are Pushing U.S. And Iran Towards War, Russia Warns

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that some nations in the Persian Gulf are pushing the U.S. and Iran towards a military conflict, and should instead focus on facilitating dialogue.

Speaking with journalists on Wednesday, Lavrov said a military conflict between Washington and Tehran would be an "international crisis" that would be "detrimental to both the Middle East and Africa," state news agency Tass reported. His comments came during a visit by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Though he did not name any by name, Lavrov also suggested certain Gulf states were exacerbating current tensions. "The Arab states of the Persian Gulf could support dialogue in one way or another, instead of pushing the region towards the point when the use of force is possible," he said.

Two Gulf states in particular—Saudi Arabia and the UAE—are close U.S. allies and consider Iran an existential threat. Both are currently at war in Yemen, fighting on behalf of the deposed government there against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. They are, alongside Israel, key elements of President Donald Trump's anti-Iranian axis.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, colloquially known as MBZ, is the de facto ruler of the UAE. And in neighboring Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—known as MBS—is considered by many to be the true power behind the throne, which is currently occupied by his father King Salman.

Both princes are members of what Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has dubbed the "B-team"—a group of regional leaders and American officials who he claims wish to see the U.S. go to war with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton complete the four-man group.

Saudi officials have been particularly vocal over Iran. Following the bombing of four oil tankers off the UAE coast in May, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said the U.S. should confront all terrorist activity—whether by Iran or other actors—"with all means of force and firmness."

Saudi Arabia has also blamed Iran for an uptick in sophisticated ballistic missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis from Yemen. Strikes have targeted Saudi airports, oil refineries, oil pipelines and other crucial infrastructure. Though Tehran denies it, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. accuse Iran of training, equipping and advising the Houthis in such operations.

The UAE has been less forthcoming, and on Wednesday broke with the American assertion that Iran was behind the May tanker attacks. The UAE foreign minister told reporters in Moscow that the country needed more evidence before it could apportion blame.

Nonetheless, MBZ has been a leading voice in calling for greater pressure on the theocratic regime in Iran. And last month, a new security agreement between the U.S. and UAE came into force, which a joint statement explained would "enhance military coordination between the two nations, further advancing an already robust military, political and economic partnership at a critical time."

On Wednesday, Lavrov said Russia would work to "convince our American and Iranian colleagues that they should move away from this dangerous line and start solving their differences through a civilized dialogue. Certainly, this implies ending the policy of ultimatums, sanctions and blackmail."

He added that Russia—which this week supported Iran's account of last week's destruction of a U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz and described Iran as its "ally and partner"—hoped fresh talks could soothe tensions in the Gulf.

"Our idea is an alternative to that destructive line, where the so-called hawks are trying to push the region," he explained.

Russia, US, Iran, War Gulf states
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is pictured during a meeting with Egyptian officials in Moscow, Russia, on June 24, 2019. YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty