By Arab News
By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
Saudi-Iranian relations are now at the lowest level since the Iran-Iraq war. The low level is the result of several accumulated incidents, the most recent of which were the attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad. An attack on an embassy or on diplomatic representatives is nothing less than an attack on the state itself. This is unfortunately not the first time that such incidents have occurred in Iran; the country has a well-known history of such attacks.
Saudi Arabia has done no more than exercising its natural sovereign right, regardless of what others may say regarding the implementation of judicial sentences for terrorists, including Nimr Al-Nimr. Interference in the judicial affairs of another state is a clear interference in a state’s sovereignty. It is completely counter to international laws and relations. Iran itself naturally rejects others’ interference in its judicial system.
Iran is a country with a policy of interference and intervention in the region. It cannot reasonably expect Saudi Arabia to acquiesce in its actions — such as its intervention in Yemen — and accept the false Iranian claim that the action reinforces the security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
An unforeseen development has been the Iraqi reaction, which revealed the sectarian resentment within its policy despite Saudi Arabia’s attempts to improve relations by sending an ambassador to Baghdad. Saudi Arabia was thus very surprised when the Iraqi Parliament called for breaking off relations with Riyadh.
The Iraqi government was expected to display a more rational policy instead of rushing into evident sectarianism. The government of Haider Al-Abadi was not expected to come up with a balanced policy for Iraq and simultaneously overcome external influence.
If Iran’s remarks are looked at carefully, one will not understand the reaction. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said, “Saudi Arabia will pay for this, and a righteous revenge will linger.” This confusion is odd since it raises questions about Iran’s political ideology; politics infused with sectarianism is dangerous because it can become a plague that could tear the region apart and contribute to a complete halt in development.
It is not fair from a sectarian-based stance to accuse Saudi Arabia of violating Iranian policy which is rooted in a sectarian ideology. The fairness was when former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami proposed a moderate policy based on good neighborliness. Saudi Arabia welcomed this policy which improved bilateral relations and led to both countries signing a treaty in 2001.
The situation in the region is currently fraught with political confusion and conflicting agendas. Every state possesses a natural right to an agenda. At the same time, if a state tries to impose its agenda on others and when, by providing military and financial support, it encourages militias in other countries to overthrow legitimate governments, then the result is pure madness. This will drive the whole region into chaos.
The issue here is not merely an objection to the implementation of a judicial ruling but also an attempt to interfere in internal affairs, and to portray Tehran as the sponsor and supporter of Shiites everywhere in the world. This is a dangerous sectarian project. Shiites are citizens of their own countries, and if their rights are violated, there are clear means for submitting complaints to the relevant authorities.
When Iran intervenes to support a Shiite community, it is actually doing them more harm than good. Many Shiites object to Iran’s intervention because it fosters the idea that their loyalty is to Iran and not to the country where they live and are citizens.
There are clear political disputes and differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, particularly the UAE, hold the responsibility for maintaining regional Arab security, and dealing with the fallout from the Arab Spring.
After the nuclear agreement, Iran could have chosen a policy of peace and stability, and focused on its own internal development and building bridges with neighboring countries. Unfortunately, however, it seems that this has not happened. It turned out that the voice of moderation that it was exhibiting was all fake and it was merely a ploy to hoodwink the world. The real Iranian game was to hide its hegemonic and expansionist project.