JEDDAH: A new think-tank has been set up to study the domestic and foreign policies of Iran, in an attempt to clearly understand the Iranian political, social and military affairs.
The Arabian Gulf Center for Iranian Studies (AGCIS) was set up about a month ago in Riyadh, and just recently launched its website that has several articles written by experts about Iran, said Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami, head of the center.
In an interview with Arab News on Wednesday, Al-Sulami said that the website was launched earlier this week and is in Arabic, Persian and English. “The center is trying to explore the idea of how we should look at Iran, how can we deal with the Iranian case,” he said.
“I think there is a gap in understanding Iran because of the language barrier. Not many people in the region can read and understand Persian. Through various papers, essays and articles, we will try to inform people on and about Iran. We follow Iranian newspapers in terms of articles and news on their websites. We will publish articles on a daily basis for people who want to know what’s going on in Iran.”
“The English pages of the website will provide in-depth material on the current political, social and religious dynamics in Iran. There is one view about Iran in the East and in the Arab world and there is another view of Iran in the West. Iran is our neighbor so we have a different outlook compared to the West. We want to bridge this gap between our view and the Western view on Iran.”
He said contributors to the website are experts on the country, most of them speak Persian and include Saudis and other Arabs. “We just started our center and we look forward to having contact with different experts regardless of their nationalities whether they are Arabs, Persian, American or Europeans. We don’t look at the nationality we look at the expertise they bring.”
“We will also look at the quality of papers that are submitted to us. We have a committee to review papers before publishing them on the website. We will launch a monthly magazine in two or three months. It will be in Arabic first. Many of the articles from this magazine will be translated into English and other languages and published online.”
Al-Sulami, who is very active on Twitter (@mohalsulami), is an expert on Iran. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Persian language at King Saud University and then obtained a diploma from Tehran University. He then completed a master’s degree and PhD at Leiden University in the Netherlands in the field of Iranian studies. His doctoral thesis was entitled “Iranian Orientalism: Notions of Other Arab in Modern Iranian Thought.”
“What I am saying is that we need to understand Iran to tackle the threat emanating from Iran. I think there is not enough material to make a well-informed decision. Iran is like a closed box and we are trying to open it for Arabs and others to understand it and then to make well-informed decisions, and to deal with Iran in a better way.”
The center’s website, www.arabiangcis.org, has a series of articles on Iran, covering social, political and economic developments. An article, published on the website on May 7, outlined Iran’s Vision 2036, and was announced by Gen. Yahya Rahem Safavi, the former leader of the Revolutionary Guard and the current military consultant of the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
It stated that Iran was focused on supporting Bashar Assad, expanding its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah, and strengthening its grip on Iraq. Iran was intent on continuing its policy of “interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries” and to inflame tensions in the region to fulfill its imperialist ambitions.
This strategy of demonizing other nations was an attempt to keep its own population from seeking full rights as citizens, the report stated. The current regime under President Hassan Rouhani was no different in terms of policies than that of the previous incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the report stated.
The article stated that the policies outlined by Iran was unlike the Saudi and Emirati strategies, both named Vision 2030, which focused on economic growth across all sectors and improving the standard of living for citizens. All three countries had published their strategies in the same week, but with markedly different aims, the article stated.
Twitter handle for Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies: @arabiangcis