Iran’s damaging anti-Saudi agenda
Iran’s state-owned news outlets have dedicated significant coverage to highlighting anti-Saudi sentiments and spreading the regime’s propaganda against the Kingdom. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also played the blame card once again last week, accusing Saudi Arabia of being the cause of increasing tensions and instability in the region. He said at the Munich Security Conference: “If there is a will for reducing tensions there are many ways, but I believe that countries such as Saudi Arabia do not seek de-escalation of tensions. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seek tension in our region.”
It is ironic that the Iranian leaders are pointing a finger at Saudi Arabia, while the Tehran regime has been forcefully pursuing military adventurism in the region and has been caught several times attempting to damage Saudi Arabia’s national security through its hard power.
For example, the Islamic Republic continues to have its sights on Yemen in order to threaten Saudi Arabia and export its ideology to both countries. In fact, this mission of the regime is part of its constitution, which stipulates that Iran’s army and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of (Shiite) jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s (Shiite) law throughout the world... in the hope that this century will witness the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia has refrained from supporting militia and terror groups in Iran’s neighboring countries that might be willing to damage Tehran’s national security interests.
The Iranian regime has continued to employ every political and military tactic possible in order to fulfill its anti-Saudi objectives
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
But the Iranian regime has continued to employ every political and military tactic possible in order to fulfill its anti-Saudi objectives. These acts include funding and arming Yemen’s Houthis. Thanks to Iran, this militia, which started as a minor group in the 1990s, is now a military force of more than 100,000. For the past few years, the Houthis, as the puppets and proxies of Iran, have been inciting tension, apparently to ensure that the conflict in Yemen continues until they take control of the country and advance the interests of the Iranian government.
In addition, Iran’s foreign minister must be reminded that it was only in September last year that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei approved attacks on Saudi oil facilities, on the condition that his government’s engagement could be denied, according to a US official. The targets were the world’s biggest oil processing facility at Abqaiq and the country’s second-largest oil field at Khurais. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted: “Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while (President Hassan) Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”
But Saudi Arabia did not try to seek revenge by launching retaliatory missile attacks on Iran’s oil fields. This is another attempt by the Kingdom to de-escalate tensions in the region. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has not threatened Europe or America, as Iran’s mullahs continue to do. Saudi Arabia has also agreed to set up a strategic partnership council with other countries including India to work more closely together to fight terrorism. Iran and its proxies, on the other hand, continue to demonstrate their fierce and ruthless strategy through acts of terror.
Iran has also been acting as an occupying force in Syria and Iraq, running Lebanon through terrorist proxy group Hezbollah, and funding Hamas in the Gaza Strip, presumably in the hope of destroying Israel. Even more alarming by far is that Iran is pursuing its nuclear ambitions and advancing its ballistic missile program with no restrictions.
Iran’s modus operandi of playing the blame game and pointing fingers at everyone — except for its own government, the IRGC, its staunchest ally Bashar Assad, and its proxies — only feeds the violence that the international community is attempting to overcome. Such behavior increases animosity between countries at a time when the entire global community needs to work together to fight terrorism and stop further bloodshed.
Iran has adopted a dangerous, expansionist ideology that needs to be taken seriously. If it truly desires to hold talks with Riyadh, first it needs to halt its anti-Saudi agenda, which includes putting an end to funding and arming the Houthis, as well as stopping its promotion of anti-Saudi and sectarian propaganda.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh