Iran-Saudi Hostility: A Game Designed by Enemies

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Interview with Qasem Mohebb-e Ali
Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Former Director General for Middle East

Q: How do you see the future outlook for political relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia now that the Geneva agreement [over Iran's nuclear program] has been signed [between Tehran and the group 5+1 of world powers]? In fact, what policy should be pursued [by the two countries] if logical behavior based on rational politics is taken as the basis?

A: Iran should follow a solid regional policy toward the Arab states. We must reach a kind of understanding with Saudi Arabia as the political center of the Arab world and the Islamic world – of course for Sunni Muslims. Otherwise, we would have to pay the price for very big changes in the Middle East.

Q: What cost?

A: Political changes in Saudi Arabia can have consequences [for the region]. Why, do you think, the frequency and intensity of terrorist attacks have increased so remarkably in Iraq? Instability in a country will cause insecurity in many countries [around it]. Using its huge financial resources, Saudi Arabia will be able to foment insecurity and instability in other regional countries as well. It can also cause insecurity to continue for a long time in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria. In fact, Saudi Arabia will actually try within this framework to foment insecurity in all those areas where it has shared interests with Iran. Saudi Arabia will be able to do this because it has sufficient financial resources and religious backing. Therefore, if we failed to achieve an understanding [with Saudi Arabia] we would have to pay the price for such changes as well.

In the meantime, Americans are the sole party to avail themselves of this situation because instead of having to deal with it directly, they will have us to pay the price. Iran should get out of this game. Saudi Arabia should be made believe that if a change is going to happen [in the region to the detriment of Riyadh], Iran will not be the party to favor such a change or even try to take Saudi Arabia’s place in its course. As two regional and Muslim powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia should recognize each other’s interests. This goal can be only achieved through a wise, foresighted and cunning policy.

Q: On what basis should this policy be founded?

A: Iran's regional policy can play a very important role in this regard. [As a first step,] Iran must succeed to reach an understanding with a number of regional powers, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and make other countries believe that Tehran has no plan to weaken their regional standings. In this way, Iran will be able to help those countries to distance from the ongoing game of Iranophobia and Iran threat (by taking advantage of and getting close to the United States). In fact, [by doing so,] Iran will be able to disrupt this [Iranophobia] game. We must believe that such a policy will thwart Saudi Arabia’s game as well. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s game will lose luster through the adoption of this policy [by Iran] and this policy is sure to bear fruit, if we succeed to go on with the negotiations with the West.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia, we must be careful to adopt a long-term policy toward this country. To have such a long-term policy, we must first invest in short-term policies and undertake their costs. [The new Iranian President] Mr. [Hassan] Rouhani should strengthen relations with Saudi Arabia in such a way that he would be able to sit at the same table with [the Saudi] King Abdullah and engage in serious talks about building confidence between the two countries. In this way, Saudi Arabia will come to realize that Tehran poses no threat to Riyadh; neither a territorial menace, nor a religious or geopolitical one. Iran may compete with Saudi Arabia in certain fields, but any kind of competition [between the two countries] should be properly defined. This issue would need diplomacy and [successful] diplomacy goes through diplomatic missions, foreign ministries, and other active diplomatic forces.

In fact, we must reach a situation with Saudi Arabia that we should have reached a long time ago. I believe that this very important issue deserves very urgent attention. In parallel to the effort that Mr. Rouhani has started in order to engage in dialog with the West, he should have taken a similar step toward countries in the region. We need this diplomacy. For a variety of reasons, Saudi Arabia is playing a key role in regional developments and Iran's [regional] policy will not advance unless Saudi Arabia feels it is not threatened by us.

Q: Considering the above facts, it seems that reduction of tensions between Iran and the West will have a very critical effect on Saudi Arabia’s [regional] standing. What are we supposed to do in the face of Saudi Arabia’s need to feel safe on Iran side?

A: It seems that new policies adopted by Iran have already started to do this. On the one hand, the Americans believe that they have fewer interests related to Saudi Arabia and the United States security and economy do not depend on Saudi Arabia anymore. Naturally, the question raised here is [if this is the case, then] why the United States is giving so many concession to Saudi Arabia?

Q: Is Saudi Arabia as prone to change as some people claim?

A: If there is any change going to happen in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the one country which should undergo the highest number and the most profound changes in such areas as politics, society and economy. If you take oil from Saudi Arabia, the country would be left with the lowest possible potential for development. In fact, in the absence of oil, there are no well-defined areas of science, arts and civil society. However, since Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest producer of crude oil, it also possesses one of the world’s biggest money reserves whose volume has been estimated are more than one trillion US dollars. On the other hand, the world is still in dire need of Saudi oil and, as a result, this country has been able to use its oil-driven power to resist all kinds of changes and political developments.

Q: Will Saudi Arabia be able to continue with its current system of government for good?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. It is a reality that the world cannot wait for the crises in the Middle East to come to an end. It is widely believed that the crises in the Middle East have their roots in two places: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that these two places are where the crises are created. As long as the United States has not changed its policies toward Riyadh and Tel Aviv, nobody can expect a major change to happen in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and other littoral countries of the Persian Gulf are bound to change. This is not simply related to the United States’ demands, but it is a human and social challenge [which is facing Saudi Arabian leaders]. All human societies are undergoing certain degrees of change. When cities were built, vehicles were manufactured, and information and social networks came into being, it was not possible to rule in the same manner that was the norm of the past. Also, with the emergence of new concepts such as the civil rights and the rights of citizenship, it is not possible to rule human societies solely on the basis of the king’s law and order. All these instances should have their own and new independent definitions.

Saudi Arabian leaders are apparently having difficulty digesting these facts. There are two reasons which have so far prevented them from digesting these facts: Israel and the global demand for oil.

Of course, another issue which enabled Saudi Arabia to find a wider maneuvering room and use it in its political dealings was the quality of relationship between the Islamic Republic and the West following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. In fact, banking on the prolonged conflict between Iran and the West, Saudi Arabia has made good use of it in its political interactions and has been able to stand on its feet.

If the aforesaid challenges lose their importance and, in parallel, global need to Saudi oil is decreased (which is quite possible with the advent of new energies and discovery of huge new oil reserves in the United States), Saudi Arabia will also lose much of its importance and should look forward to experiencing further changes. This is what has greatly concerned Saudi leaders. If all these challenges and problems disappear, Saudi Arabia will not be able to put pressure on the United States anymore, nor to resist changes by saying that if changes are imposed on it, Riyadh would cut oil supply to the world. In fact, this issue has been the main leverage that Saudi Arabia has so far used to withstand US pressure. In other words, the main issue which has caused tensions in Saudi Arabia’s relations with the United States is that Riyadh has got a feeling that the United States is directing the wave of change toward Saudi Arabia.

Key Words: Iran-Saudi Hostility, Enemies, Group 5+1, Terrorist Attacks, Iranophobia, Hassan Rouhani, Persian Gulf, Mohebb-e Ali

Source: Khabaronline News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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