Saudi Rivalry Should Not Turn Into Hostility

Saudi Rivalry Should Not Turn Into HostilitySaudi Rivalry Should Not Turn Into Hostility

A veteran diplomat said Saudi Arabia is trying to turn the longstanding rivalry with Iran into hostility, but this should not be allowed to happen.

In an interview with ISNA released on Friday, Seyyed Mohammad Sadr, a senior advisor to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, believes that the Saudi kingdom, recognized as the symbol of conservative systems for 70 years, has turned into a radical one.

He explained that although Iran and Saudi Arabia have been rivals for decades, before Salman became the new king of Saudi Arabia in January and when the former king Abdullah was in power, some radical positions toward Iran started to appear, which were not comparable to their current radical approach.

Sadr said this is because of their feeling that they are falling behind in the race with Iran, in addition to the policies of the former Iranian government under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) which created problems in relations with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

"In those years, the Saudis thought that the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US placed Iraq under the dominant influence of Iran, while also believing that they have less influence in Lebanon and Syria than Iran," he said.

The advisor noted that when Arab Spring erupted in 2011, Saudis assumed that revolts against dictatorial rulers in some Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa is to their detriment, which was true because Saudi Arabia's system is not a democracy.

"After King Salman's rise to power, the foreign policy of the new Saudi government differed from that of a rational government," he said.

"Some remarks of Mohammad bin Salman [son of the king and the defense minister] and also Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir are entirely unreasonable."  

Referring to the recent anti-Iran statements of Jubeir, Sadr said these can be regarded as racist and have nothing to do with religious issues, while differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia are political.

Accusing Iran of being "the occupier of Arab lands in Syria", the Saudi foreign minister demanded in October that Iran pull its "fighters" out of the Arab country. At the time, a Foreign Ministry official described the claims as "barefaced lies" that are being circulated by the "nervous, inexperienced and inexpert" Saudi diplomat.

Asked why Iran should have good relations with Saudi Arabia, Sadr said that on the international scene, "no rational government prefers to break up relations" with others.

"Apart from being neighbors, the two countries should have closer relations because of believing in Islam and having cultural commonalities," he said.

On the prospects of better ties, the advisor said the Iranian side has showed its willingness, but the desire has not been seen in the other side yet.

Sadr noted that President Hassan Rouhani had mentioned Saudi Arabia as the most important country with which Iran wants to have better relations in the first interview after winning the elections.

"I hope they change their mind and pursue rational moves, because this is good for them, the region and the world," he said.