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On Monday, Iran’s state-run Press TV said test firings of new “supersonic” anti-ship missile are expected later this week as part of the military exercises.

It’s also another direct challenge to Saudi Arabia and the other Western-allied Gulf nations that host major foreign bases, including a French naval outpost in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

In many ways, the Arab uprisings only have hardened the Gulf Arab fears over Iran.

They have openly accused Shiite power Iran and its proxy forces, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, of actively encouraging Shiite dissent in places such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Gulf monarchs and sheiks have bonded together to try to snuff out any political opposition that could threaten their rule — including sending a Saudi-led force to help bail out Bahrain’s embattled rulers.

In their view, any cracks in the Gulf establishment by street revolts is a potential gain for Iran. The Gulf’s fortress mentality has reached new levels. The Gulf’s main political bloc has gone far afield to offer membership to the other royal-ruled nations in the region: Jordan and Morocco.

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah opened a tour this week of Gulf neighbors by describing Saudi Arabia as “the rock that shatters the dreams of the enemies” — an apparent reference to both Iran and opposition groups inspired by the Arab revolts.

Saudi Arabia has definitely established itself as an alternative to the Arab Spring,” said Ehsan Ahrari, a political affairs analyst based in Alexandria, Virginia. “And they have done so quite independently of the United States.”

Iran has pushed back, too, with claims that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are pumping up fears over the Islamic Republic as excuses for crackdowns on political dissent. But Tehran also appears pleased to rattle the region.

“We are delighted the West and allies are worried,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast in reference to the war games. “When they are not concerned, it means that they are comfortably pursing their interests in the region.”


Murphy reported from Cairo.