Saudi Arabia’s Soft Power Vs. Iranian Interventionist Power – OpEd


By Ali Bluwi

Evidently, Riyadh has avoided interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, used its resources for the well being of its citizens, and constructively contributed to regional stability. In offering financial aid to other countries, Riyadh is, by and large, driven by humanitarian rather than political considerations. Never had Riyadh exploited the poverty of other countries to find satellite states.

On the other hand, Tehran presents a different model. It is driven by its national interest. Interestingly, tension in the region help Tehran establishes proxy relationship with others. This web of relationship with proxies help Iran implement its strategy in the region as a whole. This kind of policy has enraged other players. Suffice it here to mention two incidents: Senegal expelled the Iranian ambassador and Bolivia expelled the Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmed Vahidi for being involved in the infamous Buenos Aires explosion of 1994. Iran’s relentless efforts to gain nuclear capabilities have only fed the already existed mistrust in the region.

If anything, Iran has dedicated resources for ambitions and dreams that cannot materialize. One of Iran’s problems in promoting itself is its image as a revisionist state. Hardly can we find a country that trust Iran, let alone be convinced by its rhetoric. The world of today mocks states wasting resources in support of “terrorism” while their people live in poverty and external handouts. The internal scene in Tehran is also discouraging other states as Iran prosecutes other non-Persian ethnic minorities.

Iran is benefiting from its image as the only Shiite state, which is set to protect Shiite communities. It collects a tax called “fifth,” which refers to a percentage of the wealth of Shiite to be paid to the state. It makes some $12 billion a year! Yet the world of Shiism is not monolithic. This brand of Shiism is different from the Alawites for instance. Also Iran fought hard to make Qum in Iran rather than Najaf of Iraq as the center of Shiism. It is against this backdrop that Iran antagonized scholars such Mohammed Hussein Fadil Allah and Jawad Al-Khalsi. Not only these scholars were Arabs but they also refused to be under the umbrella of the Iranian-Safavid Wilayat al Faqih. On top of that, these scholars defended Najaf as the main reference for Shiism.

We are not against Arab Shiites or Alawites. We belong to the same culture. Yet, we have a problem with those who see Iran as a focus of allegiance at the expense of their homeland. The problem is with those who fight in the name of Iran to serve Iranian and Persian national interest or those who accept to be the Trojan horse for Iranian influence in the region.

It is disheartening when you read an Iraq writer- Mahmoud Al-Haidari- describing the negative Iranian role in Iraq. He makes the case that Tehran is interested in drugs, recruiting spies, polluting waters, destroying the Shiite south of Iraq, exploiting the Arab Shiites, and creating tension among different sects. Interestingly, all along the modern political history of Iraq, sectarianism was an alien concept.

Saudi Arabia needs to support neither political parties nor radical terrorist organizations. As Saudi Arabia never suffered from a historical complex, it does not live in the illusion of power.

Now Iran is demonstrating “sympathy” with the Arab Spring and mistakenly calls it as an Arab version of the Iranian “Islamic revival.” While Iran calls on all Arabs to support the Islamic brotherly relations, it supported a coup in Bahrain and a web of espionage in Kuwait. Tehran backs some supporters in the Gulf countries and supports the Shiite forces in Iraq in order to control it. Ironically, it has been following an exclusive policy in dealing with minorities in Iran.

If anything, Riyadh is clear in dealing with others and never practiced double standards. Furthermore, it has never contravened the international law. Its relations with great powers have been always balanced. On more than one occasion, Riyadh rejected the Iranian call to politicize the issue of energy. On this point, Saudi Arabia considers energy and gas as a vital matter and as a source of human and universal security. That said, dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia is an important step to manage the region peacefully. Therefore, the visit of Minister of

Intelligence and National Security- Haidar Maslahi – is welcome. The dialogue is very important. Iran – who may have some legitimate objectives in the region – is a key Muslim state that should not be ignored. Likewise, Saudi Arabia – who is widely seen as a pivotal state – cannot be sidelined. For this reason, dialogue is in the best interest of both countries.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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