In a lengthy article titled ‘Why Iran’s malign behavior must be confronted —not appeased’, published in Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman spoke of the big difference between attempting to appease the Iranian regime, of which the “nuclear deal” is an unfortunate outcome, and what Saudi Arabia sees as a necessity to confront Iran as there is no real solution without this confrontation.
The article explained the official position of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region in relation to Iran’s behavior at the historical, political, economic and developmental levels, leaving no room for any serious researcher in the West or the East to ignore the details, information, facts and analysis it contains.
Europe revises stance on Iran
Publishing the article at this specific time is of particular importance given the fact that the current US administration and President Trump are fully convinced of the Saudi policy and its stance towards Iran.
Under US pressure, some European countries have developed their positions and abandoned their previous resistance.
Meanwhile, under escalating pressure and sanctions, the Iranian regime has started to send out friendly messages to Gulf countries.
Iran has been living through bad days. Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf have pursued a tough policy towards Iran’s interference in the region’s countries, namely the four Arab countries which have witnessed Iran’s meddling into their internal affairs and which Iran claims it controls, i.e. Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
In Yemen, there are the Decisive Storm and the Restoration of Hope operations. Through these military operations, the Yemeni army and the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia have gradually been able to lay a siege around the Iran-backed Houthi militia on all fronts. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people are rebelling against their politicians who serve Iranian politics and harm the Iraqi state and the Iraqi people’s interests. In Syria and Lebanon, the more they are dragged behind Iranian militias, the more they culturally decline.
Even when compared to the US, Saudi Arabia has been foremost in its stance on the evils of the Iranian regime and its policiesAbdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
Those who have most suffered from the ‘Vilayat al-Faqih’ ideology in Iran are the Iranian people themselves, whose uprisings have been more frequent and intense over time. With the challenges facing the Iranian regime, these uprisings are expected to increase significantly in the near future, especially once US sanctions are enforced and when the regime feels suffocated.
Prince Khalid’s article noted many events and details about Iran’s targeting of US forces in Lebanon in the 1980s, and in Khobar in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and in Iraq after 2003. He also reminded of Iran’s sponsoring of terrorism, both Sunni and Shiite factions, in the region and the world. He included undebatable facts and numbers, and this is what the new Saudi Arabia has been doing in terms of its tough decision to confront the evils of the Iranian regime. The article has strongly reiterated this decision.
Any comparison between Saudi Arabia and Iran, would present Saudi Arabia in a favorable light on all levels. This is certain and it’s rather wrong to compare them to begin with. Iran is not a match of Saudi Arabia, as the Crown Prince has asserted more than once. It is important to reiterate these facts before the international, regional and Arab public opinion in all possible ways, in order to raise everyone’s awareness regarding their decisions and the future of their politics.
It is worthwhile to note that Iran has many allies in the region including countries, groups, parties and political currents, which represent the real depth of terrorism, destruction and chaos in the region and the world. In fact, they are all linked to the terrorist and fundamentalist Brotherhood project which two countries in particular support, and they are Turkey and Qatar, and which the Muslim Brotherhood and all its branches and all political Islam groups everywhere represent as these are the real root of terrorism. Terrorism will not cease or recede without blacklisting the Muslim Brotherhood. Terrorism will also emerge again and again if some regional countries continue to provide a safe haven for the group and its symbols.
Countering this root that has founded terrorism is what Saudi Arabia and its allies have set out to achieve in the region. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has been classified as a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt years ago. The subject is being discussed in the corridors of the US Congress as well as in Britain in a manner that’s different than before.
Trump’s two salvos
President Trump has made two important statements. The first one is regarding Iran and its hollow threats issued against America and its allies with its talk of waging the most terrible war, destruction, and annihilation. He warned President Rouhani that America will no longer tolerate such public threats, stressing the fact that if Iran continued with its conduct, it will be subjected to major actions witnessed by few people before. This is a serious threat that Iranian decision makers are bound to take seriously because they do not want the regime to fall; however, they will try to be obstinate and save face, hence the silence of Iran’s supreme leader and president as they just settled with Twitter statements by Qassem Soleimani.
The second statement was directed at Turkey, wherein Trump threatened it and demanded it to end the case of the American pastor held on charges of collaborating with Erdogan’s former Turkish professor, now rival Fathullah Gulen, just a few years preceding the foiled coup.
Even when compared to the US, Saudi Arabia has been foremost in its stance on the evils of the Iranian regime and its policies. One of the most important reasons for this is that Saudi Arabia is the powerful central state in the region and it’s aware of the Iranian threat and capable of facing it. Another reason is that the former US administration has tended to appease America's adversaries and enemies choosing not to confront them. The current administration has refocused America’s position on itself, its own interests and allies. Hence, the situation is completely different now.
Prince Khalid’s article reminded us of the statements of the Saudi crown prince in France when he mentioned European countries’ attempts to appease Hitler in 1938, and avoid the inevitable confrontation thus leading to the Second World War. Delaying the confrontation led to the deaths of millions of people and harmed several countries, cultures, and economies in the most terrible war in history and what is happening with Iran today is history repeating itself.
The Iranian regime leaders are ideological figures who believe in myths and establish their policies according to them. Their political rhetoric is an expansionist discourse that seeks to spread their hegemony and influence over Arab countries in the name of “exporting the revolution” through direct war in the Khomeini era and via Shiite and Sunni terrorist organizations in the time of Khamenei. Ideological extremists only understand the language of power, whether they be Nazis or members of the Muslim Brotherhood or those loyal to the Faqih.
Finally, the ‘Druze massacres’ in Syria under the patronage of both the regime and ISIS, the “Houthi intransigence” in Yemen, the power cut suffered by Iraqi people and the bloody confrontation of the Iranian people from the ‘Vilayat al-Faqih’ regime, are all but examples of the reality we are living today, which is the result of past events, yet they can also offer a preview of what the future may have in store.
The article is available in Arabic.
Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi is a Saudi writer and researcher. He is a member of the board of advisors at Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center. He tweets under @abdullahbjad.