The West, and all countries, need to unite on a broad strategy in order to address the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said in an opinion piece he wrote for Arab News on Monday.
Recalling “thunderous echoes” from the 1930s, Prince Khalid called on the global community to act with resolve so as not to repeat the same blunders of that era, including an economic crisis and a void in leadership, which lead to the spreading of violence and hate.
“It is worth considering the abundant and disturbing parallels between 2018 and 1938. Eighty years ago, the guardians of global order looked on powerlessly as expansionist forces in Europe, Asia and Africa pierced what faith remained in the ideal of international law or in the League of Nations,” the ambassador said.
“A similar danger presents itself now as Iran runs roughshod over the international order, stoking conflict beyond its borders and arming the extremists who do its bidding in pursuit of regional domination,” he added.
The 2015 nuclear deal
The Prince commended US President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the 2015 nuclear deal, which he said “did nothing to stem the regime’s expansionist ambitions” or eliminate its support of the region’s extremist groups.
“It is encouraging to hear US President Donald Trump make clear that we will not approach Iran with the sort of appeasement policies that failed so miserably to halt Nazi Germany’s rise to power, or avert the costliest war ever waged. Now, we all need to unite on a broader strategy to address the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior” the Prince said in an exclusive opinion piece published in the Saudi newspaper Arab News.
The ambassador said that the 2015 nuclear deal did not deter Iran from using extremist groups in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere.
“The result was predictable: No peace, and nothing that resembled a more accommodating Iran, which to this day stands by Assad, one chemical weapons attack after the next,” he said.
The Iranian constitution calls for the spreading of “the ideological mission of jihad” in the world. The ambassador said that this allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to exhort his followers “to conquer Muslim and non-Muslim land alike” which led to a “supra-national doctrine” that does not recognize the legitimate international order of governments.
“But is religion really at the heart of Iran’s interpretation of Wilayat Al-Faqih? If it were, then why wouldn’t a Supreme Leader emerge from Iraq’s religious centers, and under Wilayat Al-Faqih the people of Iran would pledge allegiance to him?” the ambassador speculated.
An expansionist agenda
The Prince said that because of Iran’s focus on its expansionist agenda, it has significantly slid back economically and in terms of national development and quality of life, while Saudi Arabia has surged forward.
In a detailed comparison, he said that Saudi Arabia’s per capita income has increased almost tenfold, from just over $2,300 in 1978 to more than $22,000 today. Iran’s has fallen by more than half, to barely more than $4,000. Four decades ago, the Saudi and Iranian economies were roughly the same size: About $80 billion. Saudi GDP has since expanded to almost $700 billion, double that of Iran.
“If your home is in Saudi Arabia instead of Iran, you would earn 2½ times more money; be 34.3 percent more likely to be employed and 45 percent less likely to be in prison; and likely to live four years longer,” Prince Khalid said.
“Five years into Rouhani’s presidency, the West’s policy of appeasement to “empower” him clearly has not done much good for ordinary Iranians… But as the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pointed out, the Iranian regime has not invested in a single road or major civil project since the nuclear agreement was signed,” he added.
The nuclear deal provided Iran with more than $100 billion in concessions, the Prince said.
“But look at Iran’s budget the following year. That money did not go into schools, or roads or hospitals. No wonder Iranian citizens took to the streets this year crying out for improvements in their country,” he said.
On the other hand, the ambassador said that Saudi Arabia, under the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is implementing a positive vision of a modern and engaging partner to the world.
“This is the real conflict at the heart of the Middle East, not the Sunni vs. Shiite divide that Iran wants you to see. It is a clash of two very different visions of the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added, Saudi Arabia is aggressively fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups supported by Iran.
At the end of his piece, the ambassador made a call of action to the international community to determinedly and sternly face the Iranian threat and stop it from “spreading its tentacles of mischief to every corner of the region.”
“The world must join us to confront Iran with seriousness and intent. Iran needs to know it will pay a price if it continues to violate international law and interfere in the affairs of its neighbors. Iran must be punished economically and diplomatically, with all options kept on the table to ensure the strength and integrity of diplomacy,” he said.
“Only such a course of action will allow the seeds of modernization, growth, and innovation to flourish across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will do its part. We need as many partners as possible.”