Zarif: We cooperated with Saudi Arabia in Lebanon

Are we witnessing a change in Iran’s hostile policy designed to besiege Saudi Arabia and its allies?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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“Iran and Saudi Arabia managed to end the obstruction of the presidential election process in Lebanon, and we succeeded.” This is what Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at the World Economic Forum at Davos. He also told the participants that his country desires to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to resolve issues in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries.

The Iranian minister made his proposal to Saudi Arabia from an open forum. His proposal to work together to end conflicts in the region is a new call made by Iranian officials recently. Why so? Are we witnessing a change in Iran’s hostile policy designed to besiege Saudi Arabia and its allies? Or is Iran making preemptive moves to address developments at the global stage, especially considering change expected in American policy?

Their friend Barack Obama is set to exit power and there will be a new administration that has frankly expressed its intention to confront Iran. This is in addition to Russian signs that it does not want to remain an ally and partner in the war with Iran and Syria. The other possibility is that Zarif’s statements about his country’s desire to work with Saudi Arabia may just aim to serve public relations purposes to improve the image of Iran at the Davos meeting.

Zarif’s proposal about cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and particularly cooperation to end conflicts in the region, is not condemned. However, it is strange that Iran makes such a proposal. It’s a positive development but the Iranian regime’s interpretation of the term “cooperation” here is to politically accept what Iran imposes through wrongdoing and aggression, such as the case is in Syria and Yemen.

Tehran is now seeking to impose its concept of “cooperation” in Syria at the Astana conference and it has previously tried to do so in Bahrain before Gulf countries thwarted its attempts. Has there really been cooperation between the two countries in Lebanon and is this cooperation a model that can be followed?

Their friend Barack Obama is set to exit power and there will be a new administration that has frankly expressed its intention to confront Iran

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Election of Michel Aoun

The process of agreeing to elect Michel Aoun as president in Lebanon went through several phases among Lebanese parties themselves. After years of presidential vacuum that obstructed the functioning of the government and state institutions, Iran’s agents had nothing to achieve especially after Saudi Arabia announced it will not deal with Lebanese affairs.

The Lebanese could not even remove trash from their streets. As long as the new president does not adopt hostile stances against Saudi Arabia and does not allow anyone to have such stances in the country and as long as the Lebanese parties are satisfied, Riyadh’s reservations will end and this is what happened.

As for Zarif’s statements about cooperation regarding oil matters, this cooperation actually happened between Saudi Arabia and Russia and Iran was not a direct party in it. The Russian government obligated the Iranians to respect production of their share of oil as previously agreed on.

This does not mean that what Zarif said in principle is wrong. He said: “I don’t see a reason for hostile policies between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Truth be told, we can work together to end the tragic situations of people in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other countries in the region.”

There is one country in the region that has hostile policies and that would be Iran. Gulf countries, and other countries in the region, resort to a defensive policy against Iran. Zarif does not need to have his country launch wars that kill thousands of people and displace millions to realize there is no reasonable reason for hostility with Iran’s neighbors.

Tehran has succeeded at creating militias gathered from across the region to launch wars and carry out terrorist operations. But this policy has now backfired on Iran because it has led to the creation of opposing sectarian and ethnic conflicts and forced the region’s countries to go ahead and participate in wars to defend themselves. All this was caused by Iran which is directly engaged in the fighting in Iraq and Syria and which militarily funds rebels in Yemen.

Does it suit countries in the region, particularly Gulf countries, to cooperate with Iran? I think it is unlikely amid this Iranian military attack. All we have seen so far is that Iran is sabotaging all reconciliation attempts. Iranian powers on the ground tried to sabotage the Aleppo agreement between Russia and Turkey and they are pressurizing the Houthi rebels in Yemen to reject the political solution after they had accepted it.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on January 19, 2017.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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