Iran-Saudi Dialogue Best Way to Solve Regional Problems

Friday, January 9, 2015

Extremist elements undermining Tehran-Riyadh ties

Interview with Amir Mousavi

Dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia can help solve many problems between Tehran and Riyadh and can also even pave the way to find solutions for many regional problems. In the following interview with E’temad daily, Amir Mousavi has explained about Saudi Arabia’s approach to Iran during past years. He believes that on the opposite of Iran's approach, Riyadh has been trying to fan the flames of discord between the two countries and its policies have served as an obstacle to the establishment of constructive relations between the two states. The full text of the interview with Amir Mousavi, who also heads the Center for Political and Strategic Studies, follows.

Q: What is your opinion about relations between Tehran and Riyadh during the whole period that King Abdullah has been ruling Saudi Arabia?

A: King Abdullah ascended to the Saudi throne officially in 2005. However, he has been actually pulling all the power strings in Saudi Arabia since 1995, and even in those years, he could be considered de facto ruler of the Saudi kingdom. This was due to inability of his predecessor, King Fahd, to run the country’s affairs properly. When he was just a crown prince, Abdullah took two serious, and of course, dangerous, steps the consequences of which are still resounding even at the present time. The first step was the recognition of Israel by Abdullah during a meeting with a delegation representing the Arab Union in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut. As a result, King Abdullah has been always seeking to normalize relations between Israel and regional Arab states and has been trying to make Arab countries recognize Israel.

The second step, was to pave the ground for the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003. He was the person who provided necessary ground for the military occupation of Iraq by the West. After Abdullah became the official king of Saudi Arabia, there were many hopes that he would take steps to improve relations between Saudi Arabia and other regional countries, especially Iran. He, however, continued to pursue the same dangerous steps that he had started as the crown prince. When Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, instead of lending its support to Hezbollah and the resistance movement in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia practically took steps and adopted positions, which were more beneficial to Israel. Riyadh not only offered no assistance to Hezbollah, but did not help the Lebanese army in any way either. As a result, Riyadh did not show even a single negative reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. When Israel attacked Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip in later years and launched several wars against them, the same approach was repeated by Saudi Arabia. Riyadh not only continued to remain silent toward the Israeli aggression, but appeared to be supporting the regime either directly or indirectly in all those years with respect to all kinds of regional issues.

On the other hand, as I said before, his performance with regard to Iraq was not positive at all. Before the United States attacked Iraq and occupied its territory, Iraq had been already under Riyadh’s sanctions for 12 years. Those sanctions not only did nothing to help the Iraqi people, but led to further spread of poverty and social maladies in that country. Even following the occupation of Iraq by the Western alliance, Saudi Arabia did not give up its hostile approach to the Iraqi nation and offered its strong support to terrorist groups operating in this country, thus pouring fuel on the flames of a sectarian war. Of course, Saudi Arabia’s latest positions have raised some hope in this regard and it is possible for Riyadh to open its embassy in Baghdad after 25 years. The conditions I explained above have been exacerbated in the past four years. Iraqi people and groups have been most violently treated by those groups that have been somehow supported by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi king gave carte blanche to his foreign minister and intelligence chief and they have done everything they wanted to do during these years. Another important point which has been seen quite clearly throughout the years that King Abdullah has been ruling Saudi Arabia, is his special approach to certain issues. Some measures that were taken clandestinely during past years have now come to the surface and are being taken overtly.

Q: Relations between Tehran and Riyadh were gradually picking up under former Iranian presidents, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. However, during the past eight years, they have been continuously worsening. What is the reason for this situation?

A: The relations between Riyadh and Tehran have not been amicable since the victory of the Islamic Revolution and that situation has continued into later years. After the Islamic Revolution triumphed in Iran, there were fears among Arab states that their countries might witness similar uprisings. For this reason, they took a hostile approach to the Islamic Republic of Iran since its inception. During the period that you mentioned above, measures were taken to improve relations between the two countries, but those measures fell short of addressing the root cause of differences. Iran was the main party that took steps to promote ties between the two states, but even in those years, Saudi Arabia took many steps which could have potentially thwarted Iran's efforts to promote Tehran-Riyadh ties. Just look at Saudi Arabia’s behavior during all these years. It was upon a proposal by Saudi Arabia that the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] came about in order to be used as a means of confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its members had certain demands, which were rejected by Iran even under those two administrations that you mentioned above. Among other things, they expected Iran, for example, to desist its animosity toward Israel; withdraw its support for the resistance movement in the region; stop its alleged interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries; give three Persian Gulf islands [including the Lesser and Greater Tunbs and Abu Mousa] to the United Arab Emirates, and so forth. They have been witness to rising influence as well as cordial ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and some regional countries including Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. However, they do not want Iran to have any influence or strong relations with Arab states, ignoring the fact that it is inalienable right of every country to try to have friendly relations with all countries in its neighborhood and in the region. Just review Saudi Arabia’s behavior during the past year. There have been negotiations, including brief mutual talks between Iran and the United States, over the Islamic Republic's nuclear energy program. However, they cannot even withstand this amount of progress by Iran and have been taking measures against the norms of international diplomacy. During his tenure as Iran's president, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani did his best to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, but Saudi officials never made a trip to Iran at a high level, even once. Only King Abdullah paid a short visit to Tehran just to take part in the meeting of the then Organization of the Islamic Conference [which is now called the Organization of Islamic Cooperation]. On the opposite, Iranian officials at all levels paid visits to Saudi Arabia.

Q: How the relations have been between Tehran and Riyadh under Iran's new administration whose motto is hope and foresight?

A: During the last year, both [Iranian President] Mr. [Hassan] Rouhani and [Iranian Foreign Minister] Mr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif have taken a host of positive and constructive steps to improve relations with Saudi Arabia. They have, among other things, sent a lot of messages and engaged in talks about this, but what has been Saudi Arabia’s answer to those messages? They are fighting against us in Iraq and Syria. They want to practically shatter our economy by reducing global oil prices to historical lows. They do not allow Egypt to have relations with us. They have put tremendous pressure on Morocco so that, four years ago, Rabat had to cut its relations with Tehran. Even in Sudan, they were not idle and sabotaged our relations with Khartoum. They played a great role in getting international sanctions approved against Iran. Just have a look at Wikileaks documents. Of course, it should be also noted that there is a small group of moderate and wise politicians in Saudi Arabia, which thinks about improvement of relations with the Islamic Republic, but that group is just a small minority.

Q: Why they don’t want to get along with Iran?

A: Saudi Arabia has spent a lot of money in the region during the past years in order to introduce itself as the sole power to be reckoned with in the region. It has invested a lot in what is going on in Syria and has paid a lot of money to Takfiri terrorist groups in order to fight and topple Syria’s government of President Bashar Assad. However, contrary to their aspirations, Assad has remained in power and Takfiri terrorist groups are on decline and close to their final defeat. Saudi Arabia also spared no effort in Lebanon in order to keep Saad Hariri in power as the Lebanese prime minister, but it failed. During the past year, Saudis have also tried a lot to bring a person of their choosing to power as Lebanon’s president. This goal, however, has not been achieved so far and due to obstructionist efforts by Saudi Arabia, Lebanon has been doing without a president for the past year. They have remained silent toward the crimes perpetrated by Israel in Palestine and have spared no effort to destroy the resistance movement. However, what we saw in practice was humiliation for Israel and dignity for Palestinian resistance groups. Yemen, once a backyard for Saudi politics, has also changed. At present, the Yemeni president, who is close to Saudi Arabia, has actually no power and it is the Shia movement of Ansarullah that is running the country’s affairs through popular support. For four years, there have been peaceful protests going on against Al Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain. How Saudi Arabia has reacted to them? It dispatched (P)GCC’s Peninsula Shield forces to suppress popular protests and destroy Bahraini people’s mosques and squares. On the whole, what they have gained through all the investment that they have made in various regional developments has been nothing but outright failure. They do not like to see a more powerful Iran because Iran's power is rooted in its people.

Q: Do you really think that such problems can be actually solved through dialogue?

A: They are, unfortunately, unable to get engaged in amicable dialogue. They do not know how to sit for negotiations with Iran. They do not understand the language of diplomacy and have mistaken that language with another one which is characterized with terrorism and conspiracy. They want to talk to Iran through Takfiri terrorist groups. However, all their efforts have led to nowhere but total failure. If they had opted for dialogue, they could have protected many of their interests and they could have played a constructive part in many regional issues at the same time. I believe that the most important development that can take place once King Abdullah is gone, is for the country’s doves, or moderate politicians, to control the country’s affairs. It would be good to see one of the sons of King Abdullah in his place because they are apparently moderate and realistic people. If that group managed to grasp the power, the extremist group of Saudi politicians led by [the country’s Foreign Minister] Saud Al Faisal and [former spy chief] Prince Bandar bin Sultan, would be marginalized. Even a little decline in the power and influence of the extremist group can have profound effects on relations between Tehran and Riyadh and even on relations between the Islamic Republic and other regional countries. I think the United States is also working along the same lines. Washington is actually changing its regional strategy and is not willing to be at loggerheads with Saudi extremist politicians, at least, as long as [the incumbent US President Barack] Obama is in office. It was perhaps for this reason that King Abdullah’s son, Mutaib, was in Washington a month ago. If Mutaib and his supporters gain power, future conditions will be better and I think that the situation will also turn for the better for Saudi Shias and also for the people of Bahrain. In addition, the way would be paved for the improvement of relations with Iran. At any rate, I strongly believe that dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran will not only help to reduce and even totally resolve the existing problems between the two countries, but will be also influential in paving the way for finding final solutions to other regional issues.

Key Words: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Regional Problems, King Abdullah, Tehran-Riyadh Relations, Dialogue, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, Mousavi

Source: Etemad Newspaper
ٰTranslated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Jam News

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