Pick up the phone, Rouhani!
A few days ago, this newspaper published an editorial calling for surgical strikes against Iran and its agents who recently attacked Saudi oil pipelines and commercial ships in Fujairah.
Incidentally, our editorial was followed by military strikes against Houthi targets by the Saudi-led coalition to restore the legitimate government in Yemen. It was also followed by news that the US has obtained the approval of several Gulf countries to redeploy troops in the region.
On social media, there were many who criticized our position and labeled us as warmongers. They also slammed the collective view of our top editors as irresponsible. They wondered — in a one-sided manner — how one could call for a Muslim country to attack another Muslim country during the month of Ramadan.
Putting aside the few commentators who had a genuine concern — as we do — regarding a large-scale war erupting, much of the criticism is coming from well-known pro-Iran and pro-Hezbollah propagandists.
One simply has to ask why these critics were silent when Iran and its agents attacked Saudi Arabia. Not only is Saudi Arabia a Muslim country, it is the land of the Two Holy Mosques. Surely, an attack on its soil — by a fellow Muslim country — demanded severe condemnation.
Furthermore, why aren’t these supposed peace-lovers urging Iran to stop its meddling and to take up the US offer of talks?
Where were all these critics when Houthi missiles fell near the holy city of Makkah, and in civilian neighborhoods of Riyadh?
Saudi Arabia does not want a war. It has and will always work with the US and other allies to try and avert it. However, Saudi Arabia — like any sovereign country — also has the right to defend itself.
After all, Iranian Education Minister Mohammed Bathaee may very well say he wants to sacrifice 14 million innocent Iranian schoolchildren as “martyrs” should a war happen, but here in the Kingdom, we see it as our duty to protect our children, not the other way around.
Of course, critics will say the Arab coalition has made mistakes in Yemen in terms of civilian casualties. This is true, but these mistake were always investigated, admitted and apologized for. It must be stressed that the same cannot be argued for the malicious Houthi militias, whose leadership’s declared policy is to attack civilians and airports.
That said, the Kingdom is definitely not perfect and has its flaws, but the reality is that today, there are no Arab militias in Persian lands. However, the same cannot be said about Iran and its agents in Arab countries. After all, it is Tehran’s declared policy to destabilize Iraq, hijack Lebanon, sabotage Palestinian peace efforts and support Syrian President Bashar Assad as he gasses and barrel-bombs his people.
Hearing what Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently said does not suggest that his regime understands that the rope is tightening around its neck.
“Nobody can confront Iran,” said Zarif (whose name in Arabic means “cute”). Such an attitude reminds us of Iraq under Saddam Hussein prior to the 2003 war. Of course, we all know what fell upon Iraq because of this stubbornness and shortsightedness. With the current sanctions, a collapsing economy and superior foes, the Mullahs don’t stand a chance.
Still, the Iranian regime has a golden opportunity to avert a war at worst, or an economic disaster at best.
It can simply commit to not being a rogue state, stop supporting terror, recall its militias and shut down its nuclear program. This will not only be beneficial for Iran itself, but for the whole region and the world at large.
So, for everyone’s sake, let us hope President Hassan Rouhani picks up the phone and calls the White House, before it is too late!
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News