In rare joint stand, 6 Gulf Arab nations back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

Despite many disputes between its members, Gulf Cooperation Council says it is ‘inappropriate’ to lift sanctions until Tehran ‘abandons its destabilizing activities in the region’

A general view of the GCC leaders attending the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on December 5, 2017. (AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE)
A general view of the GCC leaders attending the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on December 5, 2017. (AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A six-nation bloc of Gulf Arab nations torn apart by internal strife endorsed an extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran on Sunday, just two months before it is set to expire.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said it sent a letter to the UN Security Council backing an extension of an arms embargo that has kept Iran from purchasing foreign-made weapons like fighter jets, tanks and warships.

The GCC — comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — alleged Iran had “not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”

A Saudi-led coalition continues to battle Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the UN, the US and armament experts have accused of receiving arms from Iran. Tehran denies arming the Houthis, even as Iranian armaments and components have repeatedly turned up in Yemen.

“As such, it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons’ movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilizing activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organizations,” the GCC said.

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the GCC statement.

A man looks at his mobile phone in front of the flag of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, in Kuwait City, December 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

The UN banned Iran from buying major foreign weapon systems in 2010 amid tensions over its nuclear program. That blocked Iran from replacing its aging equipment, much of which had been purchased by the shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. An earlier embargo targeted Iranian arms exports.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal saw the UN agree to sunset the arms embargo this October. US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the deal in 2018, part of a maximum pressure campaign that has hurt Iran’s already ailing economy and led to a series of escalating incidents in the Middle East.

That the GCC offered a unified statement on Iran comes as it remains torn by the ongoing Qatar crisis, which saw Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates cut diplomatic ties and launch a boycott of the nation beginning in 2017. Kuwait has sought to mediate the crisis, though its 91-year-old emir now is hospitalized in the US suffering from an undisclosed ailment.

Amid the crisis, Qatar has had warmer ties with Iran and used its airspace while sharing a vast offshore oil and gas field with Tehran. The small nation is home to the massive Al-Udeid Air Base, home to the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command. Oman, which saw its long-serving sultan die earlier this year, long has had close ties to Iran and has served as an interlocutor between Tehran and the West.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates long have viewed Iran far more suspiciously, accusing it of stirring up dissent among Shiite populations in the region.

The unified GCC statement comes after recent visits by outgoing US special representative for Iran Brian Hook amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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