Ever since the fall of the pro-Western Shah of Iran, the United States, under heavy pressure from Israel and Saudi Arabia, has always seen fit to blame Iran for the tensions in the Persian Gulf region. In fact, over the past three and a half decades, most political and military crises in the Gulf Arab states have primarily been caused by Israel and/or Saudi Arabia. The US Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have permitted anti-Iran disinformation to influence intelligence reports and policy documents. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980 and the Shi’a-Sunni riots in Mecca of 1987 were, of course, blamed by US intelligence on Iran, but behind these events, along with a number of smaller scale intrigues, were the Israeli and Saudi intelligence services and their provocateurs.
In order to exercise political control over the small monarchies of the Persian Gulf region, the CIA, Britain’s MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service, and Israel’s Mossad have tried to convince the ruling sheikhs, emirs, kings, and sultans of the area that Iran is an ever-present enemy that has tried to undermine their governments. This is evidenced in a June 29, 1987 CIA Directorate of Intelligence report titled “Iranian Threats to Persian Gulf States”. The entire document, supposedly based on actual intelligence, hypes the Iranian “threat” to such states as Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Sharjah. The “evidence” cited is based not on solid intelligence but on mere innuendo, rumors, and dubious media reports, most of which likely originated in the disinformation boiler shops of Mossad in Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
The CIA and Mossad were obviously worried that some Gulf nations were seeking to improve their relations with Iran. The American and Israeli intelligence services began undermining regional Gulf leaders believed to be cozying up to Iran.
The emirate of Sharjah, a constituent member of the United Arab Emirates, was a center for anti-Iranian intrigue. The most conservative of all the emirates, Sharjah attracted international attention in 1972 when Sheikh Saqr bin Sultan al Qasimi, the leftist ruler ousted from power by British troops in 1965, tried to reassert his control of Sharjah by staging a counter-coup, taking power briefly in January 1972. During the leftist revolt, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed al Qasimi, Saqr’s cousin and brother-in-law, originally installed by British troops in 1965, was assassinated. Federal armed forces from the newly-independent United Arab Emirates quelled Saqr’s coup and Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi, Khalid’s brother, was installed as emir and he has ruled ever since.
Although the emir of Sharjah was not as left-wing as his cousin Saqr, he maintained close ties with Iran. Sharjah claimed sovereignty over the strategic Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa. However, Iran also claimed control of the island and ever since 1971, Sharjah and Iran maintained joint control over the island. Sharjah workers lived on the island and the Sharjah flag flew over the island. In 1987, Sheikh Sultan was ousted in a six-day coup from June 17 to 23, 1987. Iran was so alarmed at the new emir, the more pro-Western Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mohamed al Qasimi, it quickly seized full control over Abu Musa, expelled Sharjah nationals, and hauled down the flag of Sharjah. Sheikh Sultan was restored but the UAE leadership decided that the coup leader, Sheikh Abdulaziz, would become the deputy ruler. For Iran, the reasons for the Sharjah coup were clear. The United States, which had reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers with the US flag during what became known as the Iran-Iraq “tanker war”, was behind the coup in Sharjah with a clear intent to occupy Abu Musa as a US naval base and expel the Iranians from the island. Israel also had a reason to sever the Sharjah-Iran link, especially after Iranian Majlis national assembly speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s June 26, 1987 speech.
Rafsanjani, it was noted in the CIA report, said southern Gulf States were more than “servants of the West”. Rafsanjani said that the oil facilities and water purifiers were vulnerable to Iranian attacks in any wider war. The CIA apparently mistranslated Rafsanjani’s speech in order to frighten the southern Gulf states, especially Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah of the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman, all of which adopted more moderate approaches to Iran than countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and, especially, Saudi Arabia.
The CIA convinced Bahrain, which had a large Shi’a population that the Americans believed tried to overthrow the ruling Wahhabist Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in 1981, to allow the expansion of the US naval base in Manama, the Bahraini capital. Recent events have shown that Iran was never the threat to Bahrain’s sovereignty. After the advent of the “Arab Spring” in 2010, Bahrain’s Shi’as demanded equal rights to the Sunnis. Their protests were violently put down by Bahraini forces aided by Saudi troops. Today, Bahrain is a virtual colony of Saudi Arabia and the plight of the Shi’as continues to be grave.
The attempt by the United States to frighten the Gulf Arab nations into submission to the whims of the Pentagon largely failed with respect to Oman and Dubai. Oman was opposed to the reflagging of Kuwaiti tankers with the American flag as a needless provocation of Iran. Oman also canceled a joint military exercise with Washington in order that Omani relations with Iran did not suffer. Although Dubai permitted the US Navy to use its dry dock facilities, it refused to allow a greater US presence in the emirate in order that Dubai’s lucrative commercial relations with Iran did not suffer.
Another emirate that maintained a careful relationship with Iran was Ras al Khaimah. Its ruler, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohamed al Qasimi originally declared he would not accede to the UAE in 1971 after Iran seized control over the Lesser and Greater Tunbs, strategic islands in the Persian Gulf claimed by Ras al Khaimah and Iran. A small Ras al Khaimah police force on Greater Tunb opened fire on invading Iranian Marines, killing four. The Arabs on Greater Tunb were deported by Iran and the flag of Ras al Khaimah, which is the same as that of Sharjah owing to the Qasimi family’s rule over both emirates, was hauled down. Since joining the UAE, Ras al Khaimah, like Sharjah, maintained close relations with Iran in the hope that it might regain sovereignty over the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs. The United States and Israel ensured that the specter of the Iranian threat loomed large over the thinking of the emirates.
In 1974, Ras al Khaimah’s ruler appointed his oldest son, Khalid bin Saqr al Qasimi, as Crown Prince. The crown prince, like his hapless cousin Saqr bin Sultan in Sharjah, favored an independent foreign policy, significant reforms, women’s rights, and good relations with Iran. In 2003, after expressing opposition to the US invasion of Iraq, Khalid was deposed as crown prince by the emir and replaced by his half-brother, Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi, a traditionalist Wahhabist conservative with ties to the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Khalid’s supporters in the emirate protested in the streets of Ras al Khaimah, which in known simply as “RAK”. The palace coup had similar fingerprints as previous internal coups brought about by CIA and Mossad operations in other Gulf States. Ousted crown prince Khalid and his playwright wife were exiled to Muscat in Oman.
In 2010, Crown Prince Saud succeeded his father upon his death. Emir Saud wasted no time in welcoming into his emirate the American University of Ras al Khaimah, which, like its counterparts in Cairo and Beirut, is nothing more than a CIA recruitment and influence-peddling operation. There have been recent reports of disturbances in RAK that stem from a desire from some citizens to have Khalid returned to power.
Ever since the withdrawal of the British from the Gulf States in 1971, the CIA and Mossad have had the same message for the Gulf Arabs. This is summed up in the 1987 CIA report: “Significant deficiencies in the internal security services of the Gulf States... continue to limit their ability to counter Iranian subversion.” While Iranian subversion in these potentates has never been substantiated, the subversion of US, Israeli, and Saudi intelligence has remained a constant plague.