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Saudi Arabia’s foreign files: No to toppling Iran’s Islamism

Fares bin Hezam

Published: Updated:

In the last decade of the shah’s rule in Iran, the Gulf's unrest had reached its end. When protests heightened in most cities, happiness was apparent on the face of the Gulf. Khomeini was victorious in his return, and after weeks, he was able to rule his country.

The Gulf’s joy at the end of the “Gulf’s policeman” pushed a country to quickly acknowledge the new ruler and congratulate him.

The Abadan Refinery was not working, as a result of protests and strikes, so Saudi Arabia rushed to fill the gap by sending oil to Iran to facilitate everyday life. There were no well-intended Gulf initiatives more than those at the beginning of the Khomeini era. But one page in the constitution which he imposed on the country in nine months ended everything.

Khomeini’s constitution explicitly stipulated the exporting of his revolution to brotherly states, and this is where the problem began, not when the Gulf stood by Iraq in the war, like Iran and the rest of the world imagined, which preceded the constitution that came as a declaration of war.

With the increase in protests and anticipation over massive American sanctions, we must agree that the Iranian regime is strong in its cohesion and cruelty. It lived and strengthened itself through four decades of problems and sanctions

Fares bin Hezam

The Iranian model

The well-intended initiatives by Saudi Arabia did not stop, and President Rouhani himself was a major part of improving them when he was the interior minister during Khatami’s presidency. Since the end of its war with Iraq, the relationship between Riyadh and Tehran went through some positive stages but this did not end in the wanted outcome to support the stability of the Gulf, and push relations to a higher level.

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With the increase in protests and anticipation over massive American sanctions, we must agree that the Iranian regime is strong in its cohesion and cruelty. It lived and strengthened itself through four decades of problems and sanctions, and absorbed tens of major demonstrations. In our modern times, we have seen it survive the 2009 revolution and rising protests this year.

What Khamenei is living today is the same as what the shah lived in his last years as a ruler. Nine years of tension, protests and strikes. This does not mean the quick collapse of the regime, but maybe a change in how it looks. This is what happened with the shah, the government’s institutions remained, and Khomeini added to them other judicial and military institutions.

The Iranian regime’s model is embodied in a man who is obsessed with the illusion of a Godly power, leading extremist men of religion and reckless commanders. This model aspires to bring back a scattered empire which ruled large areas many centuries ago, like the case of the Ottoman caliphate. It extended north and east in Azerbaijan, Caucasus and parts on India before falling apart when faced with the expansion of the British and Russian empires, and going back to the model we knew with the shah.

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Today, Saudi Arabia watches what’s happening in Iran from the other Gulf bank. There is an opinion that I support which rejects the toppling of the regime, as I believe that what’s best for the Arab Gulf at this stage lies in keeping an Islamic system in Iran, which stops its expansionist programs and makes it focus on itself.

The danger of the collapse of the regime of a country where 80 million people reside will exceed imagination, and the big burden will lie on Gulf countries when they find themselves facing waves of immigrants swimming across gulf waters and entering through hundreds of kilometers from the borders with Iraq. Also, a liberal system in Iran will turn it into the world’s hub in the Middle East at the expense of Gulf states.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Fares bin Hezam is Editor-in-Chief at Al Arabiya Channel.

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