All sorts of bitter differences are brewing among the Gulf States, Iran, Israel, and the EU due to an oil embargo to be signed by members of the EU at the end of this week. It’s hard to see how to can all turn out well.
Reliable media outlets of the region, including the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s most-read English website and the Khaleej Times Online, a leading English daily out of Dubai, report growing tension, in particular, between Iran and Gulf States. A key issue of contention is the decision of the EU to punish Iran for proceeding with development of its nuclear capability. Many countries find this alarming, especially Israel, but Iran describes its work as a harmless “nuclear technology program” to generate domestic electricity.
But Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi of Saudi Arabia, the leading producer of oil in the world, stunned Iran with a statement supporting the EU, saying Saudi Arabia can and will respond to this world-wide oil shortage when the EU Iran oil embargo is fully implemented in July this year. This is directly incongruent with Iran’s wishes as Tehran’s OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi warns their Arab neighbor countries of unpredictable consequences if they cooperate with EU sanctions.
It is beginning to look like one big slippery political mess. As Olivier Jakob of Petroconsultants suggests in an analysis, the Saudis tread a thin line in supporting the EU by promising to make up any shortage. Reassuring the oil-needy West is one thing; but appearing to support Israel against Iran is quite another.