Saudi King’s Misplaced Criticism Of Iran – OpEd


King Salman of Saudi Arabia missed an important chance to behave like a true leader of the Muslim world in his virtual address to UN’s General Assembly, which was tainted with anti-Shiite phobia so familiar in the Sunni Wahhabi sectarian ruling ideology of the ossified kingdom reeling nowadays by the declining oil wealth and a surging Covid-19 pandemic. 

In his strongly-worded attack on Iran, King Salman blamed Iran for spreading chaos and instability in the region, called for the disarmament of Iran’s ally in Lebanon, the Hezbollah, and a final solution for the “problem of Iran.” 

Inevitably, his speech invoked the memory of Hitler’s venomous search for a final solution for the Jews, once again reminding the world that the threat of genocide against the minority Shiites in the Muslim world remains serious and should not be ignored by the international community.

At the same time, the Saudi leader omitted any criticism of Israel and defended the recent normalization of relations between Israel and UAE and Bahrain, even though he himself has opted to refrain for the moment from following the same path, which has caused so much uproar among Muslims worldwide, in light of Israel’s incessant land grab and complete disregard for the oppressed rights of Palestinians. 

As a result, the Saudi-led Arab Initiative of 2002, which essentially was a ‘land for peace’ formula backed by the Arab League, has now become defunct, despite the absence of any movement on the part of Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians.

Not only that, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Israel was behind the massive explosion in Beirut that devastated Lebanon’s capital city, aiming to cripple the well-armed Hezbollah, thus reflecting a combined hard and soft power Israeli offensive against the “axis of resistance” comprising of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. 

Israel has now managed to insert itself in the security calculus of Persian Gulf and chances are is actively pursuing collaborative efforts with the UAE and Saudi Arabia with respect to the conflict in Yemen and intelligence-sharing on Iran.     

From Iran’s perspective, the UN speech by King Salman was both unfortunate and untimely, geared to lend poignancy to Trump’s confrontational Iran policy on the eve of the US presidential elections. 

Saudi Arabia has loyally purchased tens of billions of dollars of US military hardware during Trump’s first term in office and is destined to continue being a top US arms importer irrespective of the economic woes confronting the kingdom today. 

As expected, conspicuously absent in Salman’s speech was any reference to Jamal Khashoghi, the dissident Saudi journalist who was murdered in cold blood in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, or the Saudis’ relentless mayhem in Yemen, which has resulted in the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and incredible suffering on the part of millions of innocent people in Yemen. 

Until recently, Saudi Arabia was on the UN’s black list of countries killing children, and the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who holds his relations with the wealthy Saudi donors dear to his heart, unilaterally decided to remove the Kingdom from the list, causing an outcry in the human rights community.  This is of course not to mention the irrefutable evidence of Saudi complicity with the terrorist groups operating in both Syria and Iraq, many of whom are influenced by the anti-Shiite Wahhabi ideology of the Kingdom, breeding radical sectarianism and hateful attitude toward the Shiite minority.     

Indeed, the King’s UN speech, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war commenced by another Sunni leader, Saddam Hussain, in September 1980, is a fresh reminder to the Iranians that Saudi Arabia remains a major foreign policy challenge for Iran, given the extensive Saudi backing of Saddam’s war on Iran, including billions of dollars of loans and military assistance, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of Iranians died and dozens of cities and towns in Iran were levelled. 

The UN subsequently identified Saddam as the aggressor and the Saudis indeed owe Iran a great deal of compensation for their indirect complicity in the unlawful invasion of Iran.  Instead, the Saudis have the audacity to ignore their bloodied hands in the invasion of Iran by their Sunni ally and entirely blame Iran for the region’s instability, which stems in part from the continuing menace of ISIS terrorism, reportedly partly bankrolled by the anti-Iran sheikhs in the Persian Gulf. 

As expected, there was no mention of threat of ISIS and other similar terrorist groups in King Salman’s speech, only a righteous offensive against Iran devoid of any self-criticism and or balanced sense of history. 

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D. is an Iranian-American political scientist and author specializing in Iran’s foreign and nuclear affairs, and author of several books.

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