SMQ’s noble but difficult mission
Hoping US will shun differences with Iran is like expecting sun to rise from the west
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s visits to Tehran, Riyadh and Washington, undertaken on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s direction, constitute a very noble mission but there is little possibility of him being able to de-escalate the growing tensions.
Iran and Saudi Arabia, without exaggeration, are poles apart. The same is the state of ties between Iran and the United States. Expecting that ties between post-revolution Iran and Trump’s United States will be normal in the foreseeable future will be like expecting the sun to rise from the West.
And what is more unfortunate is the fact that except Pakistan no other Islamic country is in a position to play a mediator’s role in the prevailing situation. Other countries are either aligned to Saudi Arabia or Iran on sectarian basis, and these two countries are not willing to change their mindsets at any cost.
Unlike others, Pakistan has a common border with Iran and has brotherly ties to Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, Malaysia and Egypt are also important Muslim countries but they are not acceptable either to KSA or to Iran.
While Malaysia had recently hosted Kuala Lumpur summit, an initiative strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt is not in good books of Iran because of close ties to KSA.
Pakistan had abstained from the event in consultation with the Saudi authorities.
Another factor which makes SMQ’s mission more uphill is Saudi ties to the United States, a country worst enemy of Iran. It is said that enemy’s enemy is friend, and enemy’s friend is enemy.
It is an open secret that Arab countries had supported Iraq during its eight-year (1980-88) war against Iran. They had extended financial as well as military assistance to Iraq to bleed and defeat Iran which was a great military power, as left by Raza Shah Pehalvi.
No doubt the prolonged war had weakened Iran to a large extent, but at the end it proudly claimed that it doesn’t owe a single penny to any foreign power.
Other than the sectarian rift this should also explain what is behind the Saudi-Iran gulf. The two are also on rival sides in wars going on in Yemen and Syria for years.
The US target viz-a-viz Iran is similar to that of the KSA and other Arab states. Although Iran was the staunchest US ally before the 1979 revolution brought about by Ayatollah Khomeini, since the overthrow of Shah regime it has been trying to weaken Tehran as much as possible. The US is also opposed to Iran attaining nuclear capability, although the latter vehemently denies that it harbours any such desire.
It’s an undeniable fact that the USA and KSA are on the same page as far as their designs against Tehran are concerned.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
It’s an important question as to what should be done to bridge the gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iran and USA if even Pakistan is not in a position to play an effective role?
The answer is that both Saudi Arabia and Iran should, burying their past rivalry, rise above their sectarian considerations and behave like Muslim states. They should think as Muslims versus non-Muslims, not Shias versus Sunnis. Unless they change their mindset, peace in the region will remain a dream.
Both should not forget Quranic message that Christians and Jews are friends among themselves but enemies to Muslims. There is little justification for the KSA to be friendly to the USA, no matter how beneficial the ties from the worldly point of view.
KSA, being the beacon of light for Muslims across the world, should show its large-heartedness and extend a hand of friendship to Iran.
Likewise, Iran should reciprocate the gesture, forgetting the past bitterness.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s March 2007 visit to KSA should be instructive for both the countries. Saudi King Abdullah had warmly received the Iranian leader known for his extreme humility.
On his return to Tehran, president Nejad had said friendly consultations between the two countries would continue and they would keep sharing views on developments in Iraq.
People believe that both the countries would be doing a great service to the Ummah by closing their ranks. Enemies, they believe, will only widen the chasm for their vested interests.
Such a unity is also indispensable for the liberation of Al-Quds from the Israeli occupation, which has been going on for the past five decades.
The KSA should use its influence with the USA to bring Israel under pressure on this front. If Saudi Arabia regards Israel its enemy, which it should because of its occupation of Al-Quds, then there is no justification left for it to take USA as its friend.