Tehran-Riyadh Security Committee, a Good Way to Reduce Iran-Saudi Tension

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview with Hossein Rouyvaran
Faculty Member, University of Tehran

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, recently told reporters that Saudi Arabia has offered Iran with a proposal to set up a joint security committee in order to see into issues that may be of concern to Tehran and Riyadh. The proposal to form this committee at a time that the Middle East is going through the worse juncture of its history during the past decades can be taken as a good omen of the two sides’ determination to reduce regional tension and cooperate with other regional states in fighting extremism and violence. In the following interview with Etemad Persian daily, Hossein Rouyvaran has opined that establishment of any committee between the two countries can increase coordination and convergence in the region and reduce tension. This Tehran University professor has also elaborated about mutual effects of such a committee, noting that it can provide a good ground for further expansion of bilateral relations as well. He has also noted that the main reason for Riyadh to change its past approach to regional developments is the changing nature of terrorist groups and the evident threat that the ISIS terrorist group has posed to security of Saudi Arabia. The complete text of his interview with Etemad follows.

Q: Deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs has recently announced a proposal by Saudi Arabia to Iran, based on which the two countries are expected to form a joint security committee. What outcomes, in your opinion, will the possible establishment of such a committee have?

A: Since 2006, the Middle East region has been witness to some sort of grouping between the resistance front and those countries that are dependent on the West. In that grouping, Iran has been representing the resistance front, while Saudi Arabia and Israel have been leading the other side. This is a political reality. We cannot, and do not want, to enter into talks with the Israel, but we can do that with Saudi Arabia. Negotiations with Saudi Arabia and establishment of a joint security committee between Tehran and Riyadh can have a positive effect on reducing tension in the region because any committee formed to this end will boost coordination and convergence in the region and reduce tensions.

Q: What impact such a joint security committee may have on bilateral relations between Tehran and Riyadh?

A: Without a doubt, establishment of a security committee between Tehran and Riyadh can reduce the existing tension in bilateral relations between the two countries. Reduction of tension, in turn, can provide further grounds for the expansion of bilateral relations. Unfortunately, the existing policy between the two countries is based on hostility and such a hostile policy is both costly and wears off both countries’ capacities. Therefore, any effort made to initiate reconciliation on spite of the existing differences can be a harbinger of improved ties.

Q: Why this committee has been proposed? Do you think that coming to power of King Salman has been influential in this regard?

A: First, I must say that the reason for this change in Saudi Arabia’s approach is not a change in leaders of the country, but a change in the nature of terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia knows that the ISIS Takfiri group is also an overtly terrorist group. However, this group was supposed to wreak havoc on Syria and Iraq, not to pose a threat to Saudi Arabia. At present, this terrorist group, which was previously supported by Saudi Arabia, is threatening Riyadh and Saudi leaders are bent on heading off this threat. On the other hand, policies that Saudi Arabia has been pursuing by spending billions of dollars have failed both in Iraq and Syria and when a player sees the failure of its policies, it has no choice but to change course.

Q: To what extent policies adopted by the new Iranian administration have been effective in this regard?

A: An Islamic Revolution took place in Iran some 36 years ago which had various political, social and cultural dimensions while being totally popular in nature. The government rising from that revolution has been investing in popular movements during these years and by doing so, it has been imposing its discourse-based approach on foreign policy officials of other governments. On the other hand, the revolution led to a change in the arrangement of political players in the region. Both during the Sacred Defense [the eight-year war with Iraq] and after that, we supported Kurdish fighters in Iraq as well as the Islamic Supreme Council. After the fall of [the former Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hossein], the same groups came to power in Iraq. On the other hand, unbridled support of Iran for Iraq in the latter’s fight against the ISIS has increased our country’s influence in its western neighbor. We have invested most on popular systems and those political groups that sway real influence due to their social support base. On the whole, Iran's investment in other countries has been mostly aimed at people. At the same time, investments made by Saudi Arabia in this period have been focused on supporting terrorist groups as well as reactionary governments. The bottom line is that Iran's investment has been constructive and played a role in bolstering stability in the region while Saudi Arabia has mostly played a negative role to disrupt security in the region.

Q: What has been the effect of the constructive interaction approach, which has been taken by the new Iranian administration to open up dialogue with Saudi Arabia, on convincing Saudi Arabia to come up with this proposal?

A: Well, it has had its effect. Since its inception, the new Iranian administration has adopted an open policy toward all countries in the world, save for Israel. This is why it has entered into talks both with the West and regional countries as well. The point that should be taken into account is that the main focus of our diplomatic apparatus has been on Iran's nuclear case, but the progress in nuclear talks has not yet led to full expansion of Iran's regional relations.

Key Words: Tehran, Riyadh, Security Committee, Iran-Saudi Tension, King Salman, Rouyvaran

Source: Etemad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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