(Persia Digest) – Former director general of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Middle East has said: “A lack of balance of power among the Persian Gulf states and the distrust of smaller countries towards the policies and commitments of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran have led to the non-acceptance of Iran’s proposed non-aggression pact.”

During a recent visit to Iraq a few days ago, Iran’s Foreign Minister discussed the signature of a non-aggression pact with all Persian Gulf states while reiterating Tehran’s policy of continued ties with them.

Is it possible to apply this offer?

Ghasem Mohebali, former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Middle East told Persia Digest (PD): “The non-aggression pact has no positive concept. It only means that Iran will not aggress against smaller states in the region. In essence, the issue should not be discussed at all since it is Iran which is presently being threatened by US aggression; the US has a military presence in all seven Persian Gulf states.”

He added: “However, Zarif made the offer to reduce tensions in an atmosphere of Iranophobia used by the US after the Fujairah incidents. In fact, the Iranian foreign minister was trying to reassure and respond to Iraqi demands. Perhaps Iraqi officials had asked Iran to raise the issue so they could highlight it to bargain for a more balanced position at the Mecca Summit.”

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The Middle East Affairs analyst also commented on the possibility of implementing the offer by saying: “Enforcing this issue needs some prerequisites which are not available yet. The first and most important issue is to build confidence and establish cordial relations between regional states. The absence of a unified foreign policy in Iran is another problem which exists in addition to a lack of trust. We witnessed that after Zarif discussed the offer of non-aggression pact, the spokesperson for the Council of Guardians reacted to comments made by the officials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by saying: “If the US withdraws from the region, it’s not clear whether they will continue to exist anymore.” Lack of consensus in Iran’s foreign policy and comments by certain influential bodies will lead regional states to be skeptical of what the Iranian Foreign Minister or President say.”

Mohebali further referred to the impact of trans-regional powers in the Persian Gulf region and said: “The role played by big powers in the region should also be brought into consideration. Presently, the US has signed defense pacts with seven Persian Gulf states; therefore, it is not reasonable to follow up on the non-aggression pact without considering this.”

He added: “Another obstacle is the power imbalance among regional states. Despite the lack of political relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is still possible for the two to reach an agreement because of the power balance which exists between them. Iraq must also be added to this balance and this is the concerning aspect for other smaller regional states.”

The former high-ranking Iranian diplomat added: “Iraq’s record for invading Kuwait and pressures exerted on Qatar by Saudi Arabia prevent the five smaller countries of the region to trust Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. A lack of power balance anywhere in the world will increase efforts by bigger countries for influence. Therefore, it cannot be said that only Iran’s approach is a source of concern for the Persian Gulf’s smaller states. Because they also feel concerned about potential acts by Saudi Arabia and Iraq. This is why they are trying to maintain their independence and security by expanding relations with trans-regional powers.”

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“However, if the non-aggression offer includes the international community in addition to regional states, it would be more plausible.  In this case, parties outside the [non-aggression] pact will also guarantee the implementation of its commitments. Although, this scenario requires confidence-building among the eight states as an initial step.”

Mohebali stressed: “Given the offer, implementing a plan similar to the agreement among the ASEAN states would be more likely. Of course, even in that case, it was the US who provided the balance of power. The main consideration is that security is presently a global issue rather than a case of only two or more Persian Gulf states deciding for regional security. Issues such as energy and shipping will involve big powers and the United Nations Security Council who will be playing their part in this.”

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