Iran has failed its people, say experts

A session in progress at Rasanah’s conference in Riyadh to discuss the impact of the 1979 revolution in Iran. (AN photo)
Updated 10 February 2019

Iran has failed its people, say experts

  • Iran fared better with its military ambitions, said Al-Sulami, developing homegrown weapons or working in cooperation with Russia, China and North Korea
  • Tehran’s regional role, nuclear program discussed

RIYADH: Iran has failed to fulfill the aspirations of its people, a Saudi think tank said on Sunday ahead of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
Speakers at a conference organized by the Riyadh-based International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) said citizens had been ignored in favor of foreign militias and ideology, leading to protests and unrest in the country.
Iranians were happy after the revolution as they thought the Shah of Iran’s political dictatorship and the repression of his secret security forces had ended, said the president and founder of Rasanah, Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami.
“They aspired to see a better socioeconomic and political life, given the ambitious promises by the new political system including free water, electricity, and gas to people, and those who did not have a home would be able to buy a new one in a brief period,” he told the conference. “However, as days and years passed, these promises evaporated … things began to deteriorate with poverty, unemployment, and inflation rising.”
Iran fared better with its military ambitions, said Al-Sulami, developing homegrown weapons or working in cooperation with Russia, China and North Korea.
It stepped up efforts to develop a nuclear and missile program but failed to upgrade its air fleet, he said, adding that Iranians saw the country’s resources were not being used to improve living standards.
There was also an impact on Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbors because of regional developments and Tehran’s tendency to create new militias and support old ones, the conference heard.
Al-Sulami accused Iran of planting spies overseas and focusing on nonstate actors from Lebanon in the north to Yemen in the south and recruiting mercenaries from South Asian countries to fight on the side of the Syrian regime.
There were now external pressures, economic hardships and sanctions, he told the conference, in addition to domestic unrest among a middle class that wanted political reforms and freedom. This discontent could also be found in small towns and rural areas, he added.
Protests have been raging since December 2017 and there was growing anger toward Tehran, including against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he said.
Sunday’s conference was divided into three sessions.
The first session discussed views from inside Iran, successes and failures. The second was about Iran and the international community, while the third was about Iran's future amid external pressures and internal challenges.
Mohammed Al-Remaihi, a professor of political sociology at Kuwait University, said the very idea of an Islamic republic was questionable.
There was a nonelected supreme leader who did not care about the will of the people, there were restrictions on freedom and the regime was busy playing a destructive role in the region, he told the conference.
There were forces working for regime change, he added, and they were backed by people who were unhappy with the high unemployment rate. Fawaz Al-Fawaz, an economic adviser, highlighted the impact of sanctions, corruption, demographic challenges and economic complexities in Iran in the last four decades.
He said there were several issues — such as national debt, high inflation and the falling value of the Iranian riyal — that were worrying Iranians. Conference speakers also talked about Iran’s nuclear program, its ideological propaganda and its interventions into the domestic matters of Arab countries.

China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

Updated 21 February 2019

China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

  • The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership, Li said.
  • The China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee will meet during the crown prince's visit

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to China heralds a new era in the relationship between the two countries, according to Li Huaxin, the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom.

“This is an important visit with a series of political exchanges at the highest level,” Li said.

“They are embracing this opportunity to hold a joint, bilateral, high-level committee meeting to guide and coordinate cooperation in all fields,” he said, referring to the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee established in January 2016. 

The committee met for the first time in August that year in Beijing and again, 12 months later, in Jeddah. 

Li’s comments came as the Saudi crown prince began a visit to China, the Kingdom’s biggest trading partner. The visit is the last leg of an Asia tour seeking to build economic ties, and strengthen social and cultural links.

“The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership,” said Li. “Both parties are excited to move forward.”

China has responded enthusiastically to the visit, a recognition of the powerful position the Kingdom holds in the region and globally.

 “Saudi Arabia is a very important country that has a big impact, whether in the region or world,” said Li. “We consider the Kingdom to be a powerful ally in building (China’s Belt and Road initiative) and linking it with the Saudi Vision 2030, while preserving the stability and development of the region and the world.”

Since the crown prince’s launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, many in the Kingdom, including the ambassador, have witnessed the immense change it has brought to the country.

“I have seen, personally, the major developments taking place in Saudi Arabia,” said Li. “While there are changes in its cities and economy, the most important change is in the Saudi people. They are showing their enthusiasm and their abilities, which have grown on a large scale. They are playing a big role in building their country.

“I see a bright future for Saudi Arabia.”

Li highlighted the importance of the evolving strategic partnership between the two countries and their respective strengths, saying: “China is a large country in terms of its economy, and Saudi Arabia in its importance, whether in the Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries or the world. Therefore, direct meetings between the two leaderships are of vital importance.

“Both leaderships are on the same page and their stances on many issues are similar. I have attended many meetings where the two parties confirmed the similarity and conformity of their positions.”

On issues of particular importance to the Arab world, Li noted that China’s stance on Palestine has not changed in decades.

“We have called for a solution for the two sides and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty, as well as Israel’s withdrawal from occupied lands, in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”

Li said that both China and the Kingdom believe in the importance of sovereignty.

“Every country calls for sovereignty free from interference in its internal issues,” he said, adding that each nation has its own rules and social system, which must be respected.

“We both seek to find peaceful solutions to regional and world issues; in that respect we are similar,” he said.

The ambassador said that cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia is based on global principles and international law, and with the five principles of coexistence: Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

These principles were first set out in a treaty between China and India in 1954.

Responding to the suggestion that some nations might be skeptical or critical of China, the envoy said: “When we discuss these relations with our brothers, we do not care what others think as long as it is good, normal cooperation between two brotherly nations and is based on global principles and law.

“Our cooperation is not aimed at any country, whether in the region or world. Some countries might be annoyed by it, but the forest is vast and the birds are many, and they may chirp as they please.”