Kerry, in Bahrain, mentions possibility of ‘new arrangement’ with Iran

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( – Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Iran on Thursday to work constructively to help end the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, holding out the prospect of some form of new regional security “arrangement” should Tehran choose to cooperate.

In separate appearances in Manama with his Saudi and Bahraini counterparts, Kerry referred – without elaborating – to the possibility of such an arrangement.

Alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Kerry referred to Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen – the U.S. Navy recently interdicted an Iranian arms shipment believed destined to the Houthi rebels – and to its ballistic missile activity.

“But we say very clearly to Iran,” he said, “that we’re prepared to work a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution to these issues.”

“And we look for Iran to make it clear to everybody that they are prepared to cease these kinds of activities that raise questions about credibility and questions about intention,” Kerry added.

And in an earlier appearance with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, Kerry said he knew from his conversations in Manama that the Gulf states “would welcome Iran to the table if they want to be part of a genuine security arrangement for the region.”

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – have been leery of how the nuclear deal and sanctions relief may impact Iranian behavior in the region.

Saudi’s Jubeir sounded somewhat more skeptical in his assessment of the chances for rapprochement, saying that “if Iran wants to have normal relations with the GCC states, it has to change its policies and to abide by the good neighborhood principle and to refrain from interfering into the affairs of the GCC states and the countries of the region.”

“But if Iran continues its aggressive policies and continues to intervene into the affairs of the GCC states,” he said, “it will be difficult to deal with Iran.”

Khalid of Bahrain said that in the wake of the nuclear deal, GCC states “are noticing two things that we kind of have expected.”

“The missile program is moving forward with full support from the top of the leadership of the Islamic Republic, and we are seeing the hegemonic interventions through proxies in several parts of our region continuing unabated without even heeding to their responsibilities of rules of good neighborliness,” he said.

Khalid said the GCC states “want to see Iran change its foreign policy, especially towards the region.”

He called on Iran to “stop the shipments of weapons and explosives, stop training of terrorists, and stop financing and supporting proxies in several places.”

Kerry visited Bahrain for meetings with the GCC ministers in preparation for a meeting between President Obama and GCC heads of state in Saudi Arabia later this month.

The president recently raised eyebrows when he was quoted in an article inThe Atlantic as saying Saudi Arabia needs to “share” the region with its Shi’ite arch-rival.

“The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians – which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen – requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” writer Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Obama as saying.

Those comments, coupled with Goldberg’s assessment that Obama “is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally,” drew a sharp retort from an influential Saudi prince.

In an interview in Manama Thursday with Al-Arabiya television, Kerry was asked about the comments. Interviewer Hasan Muawad said Obama’s statements were interpreted by some in the region as indicating a shift in U.S. policy away from its traditional allies.

“That’s just not happening,” Kerry declared, suggesting that Goldberg injected his own opinion into the article in question.

“I’m saying that when you have an article that is written by anybody, when they are writing their own opinion, that does not reflect the words necessarily or the thoughts of the principal being interviewed,” he said. “Somebody writes what they think.”

Kerry noted that Obama would be meeting with GCC leaders in the region in a couple of weeks’ time.

“I’m very confident, very confident, about the strength of the relationship between the United States and the countries in this region, and particularly confident that we will continue to oppose the behavior of any country that tries to interfere with the internal activities and life of another nation that intends to try to create extremist disturbances or terrorist acts,” he said.

— Written by Patrick Goodenough