According to a sensational report by Awad Mustafa in Defense News, not only has Tehran signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates over three disputed islands in the Persian Gulf, near the Strait of Hormuz, but it has also reached a possibly even more important accord with the government of Oman. Both of these agreements have vast implications for the oil trade, the world economy, and Iranian influence.
According an unnamed “high level UAE source,” secretive talks taking place over six months led to a deal on the islands, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, finalized on December 24: “For now, two of the three islands are to return to the UAE while the final agreement for Abu Musa [the third island] is being ironed out. Iran will retain the sea bed rights around the three islands while the UAE will hold sovereignty over the land.”
This is big news. But bigger potentially yet is the source’s statement that “Oman will grant Iran a strategic location on Ras Musandam mountain, which is a very strategic point overlooking the whole gulf region. In return for Ras Musandam, Oman will receive free gas and oil from Iran once a pipeline is constructed within the coming two years.”
Both agreements involve land in or around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint: The UAE deal involves the tiny but strategic islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which are near the straits and have been occupied by Iranian forces since 1971, just as the UAE emerged as an independent country.
It’s not clear what granting to the Iranians “a strategic location on Ras Musandam mountain” means, but Musandam is at the very tip of the Straits of Hormuz. Tehran winning access to any sort of military position there could enhance their ability to block the oil trade as well as make trouble on the Arabian peninsula.
Oman’s role in facilitating the UAE–Iran talks, says the source, was approved by Washington: “Oman was given the green light from Iran and the US to reach deals that would decrease the threat levels in the region and offset the Saudi Arabian influence in the future by any means.”
As if the Geneva deal announced by the P5+1 and Tehran in November were not enough of a disaster on the nuclear issue, it is also apparently encouraging regional governments to appease the bellicose and ambitious Iranian regime.
It still seems unlikely that the Obama administration seeks to “offset” Saudi influence over the Gulf states with Iranian influence – but given the geniuses occupying the White House these days, who knows?