Middle EastAnalysis

Israel-Iran conflict: Where do Arab states in the region stand?

Arabs do not want to be caught up in tit-for-tat strikes that could morph into war, and have called for restraint

Arab states have called for restraint and rejected involvement in Israel’s expected retaliation for Iran’s foiled missile attack on the Jewish state. The Arabs feel exposed as Iran’s projectiles flew over Iraq, Syria and Jordan en route to Israel.

Jordan, the sole Arab country to shoot down Iranian missiles, has been threatened by Iran and criticised by Jordanians who want Israel punished for its Gaza war, which has prompted Iran’s Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni allies to retaliate against Israel and the US.

Without indicating its response to fresh incursions into its airspace, Jordan’s King Abdullah said, “We will not be a battlefield.” The country’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said the focus must be on Gaza.

Iraqi prime minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani rejected the use of Iraq’s airspace for attacks by either side and blamed rising regional tensions on the Gaza war.


The Arabs do not want to be caught in tit-for-tat strikes that could morph into war. Although Israel claimed Iran launched its blitz from Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni territory as well as Iranian bases, Israel’s Kan television channel said Israel had informed Arab neighbours that its retaliation would not risk an Iranian response against them.

Nevertheless, Lebanon fears Israel could strike pro-Iran Hizbullah, which has engaged in cross-border exchanges with Israel since October 7th when it launched the Gaza war following Hamas’s attack on southern Israel.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states gave the US information received from Tehran about Iran’s strike plan. This helped thwart Iran’s strikes on Israel.

While Jordan defended its elimination of Iranian missiles traversing its airspace, Saudi Arabia and Iraq reportedly allowed US refuelling aircraft to hover in their airspace to serve US war planes taking part in interceptions.

Cyprus fears being drawn into the conflict as British war planes could fly from British bases on the island to repulse Iranian retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have said they oppose the use of US bases on their territory by US forces. Although Qatar has good relations with Iran, the UK-based Middle East Eye website reported on X that US warplanes flew from Qatar’s Al Udeid airbase to attack Iranian missiles and could be used again to defend Israel.

After a seven-year hiatus, Saudi Arabia restored relations with Iran last year to promote regional stability, helping the kingdom to implement reforms initiated by crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Having forged relations with Israel in 2020 and restored ties with Iran in 2022, the Emirates has exploited these apparently contradictory connections. While cultivating trade, tourism, cultural and military connections with Israel, the Emirates has revived joint business ventures and boosted trade worth about $30 billion (€28 billion) with Iran. Bowing to anti-Israel domestic public opinion, the Emirates has raised $46.7 million, opened two hospitals and provided 40,000 tonnes of aid supplies for Gaza.

London School of Economics professor Fawaz Gerges told CNN on Tuesday that Gaza was “the time bomb that could ignite the region”. If the Gaza war ended, the Lebanese, Yemeni and Iranian fronts could go quiet, he said.