The 37th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit — which concluded in Manama, Bahrain, recently — attained prestige because of the presence of British Prime Minister Theresa May. This exceptional event indicated the heralding of a new era of strategic ties between the GCC and Britain.
Two days after the ground-breaking meetings in Bahrain, Prime Minister May sent her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to Riyadh where he met Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss ways of strengthening and furthering cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Britain.
Johnson also called on Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir to discuss Saudi-British relations and a number of regional developments and international issues.
Theresa May’s presence at the GCC Summit and the British foreign secretary’s visit in quick succession are indicative of the importance London attaches to its ties with the GCC states in general and Riyadh in particular, especially in political and security arenas. The United Kingdom relies on the significant role that Saudi Arabia plays — through intelligence sharing — in making Britain secure from terror groups.
The British government is fully aware of those who are playing a destructive role in the region. And, it also knows full well about the countries that are playing a constructive role in making this region, and the world at large, safe. At the GCC Summit, King Salman talked about terrorism and sectarianism being the biggest threat to the region and the world — both these instruments are being employed by Iran to advance their agenda of their creating chaos in our region.
We know that the Iranian regime’s only aim is to sow discord and cause sectarian strife under the guise of revolution. Tehran has harbored and sheltered Al-Qaeda terrorists in its territory and provided them safe passage at a time when the international community was hunting them. This is the reason why Iran has never been attacked by Al-Qaeda or Daesh.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has been attacked numerously by Al-Qaeda and Daesh. For these vicious terrorists, Saudi Arabia is their biggest enemy because it is neutralizing them. Saudi Arabia is a country where international rules and norms are respected in letter and spirit. Diplomats are treated with the respect and honor they deserve as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
Saudi Arabia is a country where no diplomat was ever harmed. No ambassador of any country was ever assassinated. No embassy was stormed. But all of these have happened in Iran. Diplomats have died and embassy and consulates have been attacked and burned in Iran with active help from the Iranian regime. Not only inside Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have attacked diplomats and foreign missions abroad.
Iran is constantly engaged in training and arming more and more sectarian militias to undermine the stability of Arab states, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. It is supplying these militias with dangerous weapons, such as Scud and Zalzal ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabia never carried out any of these terror activities. Saudi Arabia does not believe in exporting death and destruction in the name of revolution.
Take Lebanon, for example. Saudi Arabia has been consistently supporting the Lebanese state without lending any special support to any one component of the Lebanese political spectrum. Saudi Arabia has never held the Lebanese state hostage. Now, look at Iran: It has only been supporting and arming Hezbollah — the Shiite militia that pledges its allegiance only to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei and not to the Lebanese state. Iran is doing the same in Yemen — by supporting and arming the Houthi militias against the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
It is against this background that it becomes clear that Britain is looking for a renewed partnership with those who can help counter these destructive policies of the Iranian regime. Britain has taken the right decision in choosing Saudi Arabia as its partner to make this region secure and stable from mischief-makers and exporters of terrorism.
• Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, political analyst and international relations scholar, holds a PhD in Spanish Linguistics and an MA in Diplomatic Studies from Escuela Diplomatica. He is associated with the Riyadh-based Institute of Diplomatic Studies.