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Hashemi Rafsanjani’s Saudi Visit: A New Investment for Tehran – Riyadh Relations

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It seems that by extending an invitation to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia intends to somehow “rebuild” and restore Tehran-Riyadh relations to their golden days. The invitation of course received the warm and meaningful response of the Iranian side.

The unprecedented invitation by the Saudi monarch to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the State Expediency Council to attend the Global Islamic Dialogue Conference and the latter’s 10-day stay in Saudi Arabia should definitely be looked upon as an important and special event in the history of ancient relations between the two Islamic states.

Among topics discussed by experts and senior officials of Islamic states were methods of dialogue; conditions and criteria of dialogue; formalities of dialogue; future of dialogue in light of repeated insults against Islam; human affairs and reform of the human community; preventing clash of civilizations; family affairs and ethics in human commonalties; and dialogue among followers of religions, cultures and civilizations instead of clash of civilizations with an aim to forge peaceful relations.

Many analysts regard the Islamic Republic of Iran and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as two arms of the Muslim world which maintain spiritual and political leadership of two main parts of the Islamic world because of possessing charismatic-religious characteristics. But the truth is that these two arms face challenges with each other perhaps as big as the significant roles they play in the Islamic world.

Before the triumph of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the fall of the ex-shah, Iran and Saudi Arabia were considered two military – financial allies of the United States in the region within the Nixon doctrine. The two countries maintained a “friendship coupled with light rivalry” particularly on the oil issue. But after the revolution, Iran was turned into a pole opposed to the US policies in the region and this prompted a period of instability and distrust followed by tension in Tehran – Riyadh relations which lasted almost a decade the peak of which was the 1987 massacre of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca.

But the commonalties and common interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia were so extensive that a renewed friendship between the two nations began in the last years of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidential tenure (1989-1997). These relations reached the warmest level under President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2004).

After the 9/11 and change of government in Iran, relations between Tehran and Riyadh were again strained with the question of Lebanon and the crisis of electing a new president turning into one of the centers of difference between the two countries.

It seems that by extending an invitation to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia intends to somehow “rebuild” and restore Tehran-Riyadh relations to their golden days. The invitation of course received the warm and meaningful response of the Iranian side.

It also seems that “upholding and promotion of relations with Saudi Arabia” has turned into a lasting and strategic principle in Iran’s foreign diplomacy since the 1980s. BY relying on this important principle and by involving a prominent personality like Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Saudi side is trying to take the initiative in resolving differences and settling misunderstandings between the two countries.
The most important challenges of Iran and Saudi Arabia can be listed as follows:

  • Ideological rivalry of the two countries with each other and as representatives of two main Shia and Sunni camps as well as the confrontation of Shia and Wahhabi discourse in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
  • Discrepancy in overall approach towards the presence of foreign troops in the Persian Gulf region at the top of which being the military – political presence of the United States.
  • Differences in outlooks in terms of essence and form between the two countries regarding certain issues like Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

Nevertheless, the eruption of extremist terrorist discourse in parts of the Islamic world which is known under Salafi discourse and such manifestations as Al-Qaeda as well as the bitter events in Iraq and outbreak of ethnic and religious wars in that country, have created a massive potential for joint cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It can be said that the special, moderate and realistic stances taken by Hashemi Rafsanjani on Islamic world unity is just another factor prompting the Saudis to initiate a new investment on relations with Iran.  

The important condition for this new round of investment in Tehran – Riyadh relations to succeed is to contain the disturber political currents on both sides as well as feasible and candid commitment vis-à-vis the agreements reached during this important visit.

Source: http://www.mehrnews.com/fa/

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