In an article published in the New York Times on December 17, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Britain, Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud, wrote, “We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by.”
There is no intention of defending all the actions the Syrian government has taken to deal with the insurgency that broke out in 2011. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should have launched a dialogue with the opposition at the very beginning of the crisis.
However, in the case of Iran, the ambassador has made statements that are truly based on his animosity toward Iran. It is widely believed that the remarks expressed by the ambassador only reflect the views of a certain group of hardliners in Saudi Arabia, since it is hard to believe that King Abdullah consents to the use of such threatening language toward Iran. King Abdullah has proven his wisdom time and time again since he took the helm of the Saudi kingdom.
However, unfortunately, King Abdullah is surrounded by some hawks, like the ambassador to Britain and Prince Bandar.
It is true that the war in Syria is a threat to the security of the Middle East, but why does the ambassador blame Iran? Iran has repeatedly warned that the war in Syria may spill over into other countries, and has insisted that there is no military solution to the crisis. This belief is shared by most countries in the world and international organizations.
The ambassador should blame his own country and some other countries, which, through their support of the militants, have turned Syria into a hotbed for al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The support provided to the militants has killed the efforts to establish democracy in Syria, at least for the near future.
In his article, the ambassador also claimed that the West has “allowed” Iran “to continue its program for uranium enrichment, with all the consequent dangers of weaponization.”
Instead of congratulating Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), which succeeded in brokering an interim deal to end a decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on November 24, some Saudi officials have sent signals indicating their discontent over the deal.
The ambassador should be reminded that the right to uranium enrichment is not something which can be “allowed” by the West. According to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, enrichment is an “inalienable” right which cannot be rescinded by any country, be it the United States or any other country. Even Saudi Arabia has the right to enrich uranium.
The nuclear deal was first and foremost hammered out to comprehensively address any concerns of regional and extra-regional countries about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear program. And why Saudi Arabia is unhappy with this deal is inexplicable.
By expressing dissatisfaction with the nuclear deal, certain Saudi officials are in fact dancing to the tune of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other hawks in Tel Aviv.
In his recent tour of Persian Gulf Arab states -- which took him to Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates --Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his readiness to visit Riyadh to hold talks with Saudi officials. However, there has been no response to this goodwill gesture.
Elsewhere in his article, the ambassador says Iran has financed and trained what he called “militias” in Iraq, “Hezbollah terrorists” in Lebanon, and “militants” in Bahrain.
In the case of Iraq, it should be noted that there are certain groups, including some extremist clerics in Saudi Arabia, who have actually been fanning the flames of sectarian violence in the country, and Shias have been the main victims.
The Saudi government itself has played a negative role in Iraq. The fact that ten years after the ouster of the regime of Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia has still not normalized relations with Iraq provides proof of this assertion.
The United States, which is ostensibly an ally and friend of the Saudi kingdom, has paid dearly for its efforts to stabilize Iraq. However, Riyadh has not only refused to support the U.S. in this endeavor, but has also been inciting violence in Iraq, and this shows that Saudi Arabia is not even a sincere ally of Washington.
In a November 7 interview with Alhurra-Iraq TV in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, “We don’t’ have any problems [with the governments of neighboring countries] anymore, except for Saudi Arabia.” He added, “Saudi Arabia has chosen not to be a friend of Iraq. In contrast, Iraq wants friendly relations with Saudi Arabia… And whenever we try to solve our problems with them (the Saudis), we hear [negative] statements.
“Recently, the Saudi prince who visited Washington before us [last week] made a statement that also made the Americans angry. He said that [Saudi Arabia] will not change its [policies toward Iraq] as long as Shia are ruling Iraq.”
On Hezbollah, which through their heroic resistance forced Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon after 22 years of occupation, Iran has not kept its support for the group a secret. However, the labeling of Hezbollah as a terrorist group only parrots the wording of Israeli officials.
On the claims of Iran’s support for “militants” in Bahrain, it should be noted that the demonstrations in Bahrain have been mostly peaceful, and Iran has only expressed verbal support for Bahrainis’ struggle for democracy. And Iran is not the only country that has expressed support for the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. Some Western governments, which Saudi Arabia calls its allies, have also criticized the Bahraini regime for stifling the voice of the opposition.
But Saudi Arabia should ask itself why it has deployed troops to Bahrain to suppress the people’s calls for equal rights of citizenship.
The majority of the people of Bahrain have been politically marginalized by the ruling family just because they are Shia, and now, under the influence of the Arab Spring, they are demanding equal rights and a share in government.
The demand of the majority in Bahrain is a human rights issue, which should be respected without discrimination. And this gives the lie to the Saudi ambassador’s claim that Iran supports “militants” in Bahrain.
As a matter of fact, if the ruling family in Bahrain were Shia and they politically marginalized the Sunnis, that would also be an injustice, discrimination, and a violation of human rights.
This is also true in the case of Syria. The Assad family should end its monopolization of power and give a space to other groups in Syria to contest elections. However, the military support provided to the militants fighting the Syrian government has undermined the efforts to establish democracy in the country.
In his article, the ambassador also wrote that Saudi Arabia would take action against Iran and Syria “with or without the support of our Western partners.”
The threat to launch a war against Iran, though not taken seriously by Tehran, is a blatant violation of international law and shows that the ambassador’s mind is filled with animosity and ill will toward Iran.
Moreover, these statements show that the ambassador has not only made unmeasured remarks, but he is also spouting bluff and bluster.
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