Don’t Trust Rouhani’s Trust in “Nuclear Fatwa”

nuclear fatwa

The problems and the possible deal with Iran on its nuclear program boil down to one word: TRUST.

In reality, there is very little trust between Tehran and the P5+1 because, if the past is a judge of the future, Iran broke whatever trust there was by crossing IAEA red lines repeatedly. In order to foster such a trust, Tehran will have to go beyond its usual denials and produce a form of commitment that will allay the fears that Iran’s nuclear program will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran.

That’s why when Rouhani points to Khamenei’s dubious “nuclear fatwa” “(fatwa = religious edict) as “the most solid proof to guarantee the peaceful nature of the Iranian program”, it only serves to increase the distrust.

The problem with the nuclear fatwa

IRAN-US-IRAQ-KHAMENEIEven if there is no doubt that Khamenei issued his oral “nuclear fatwa” prohibiting the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, there are many doubts concerning the effectiveness of this fatwa as a binding commitment the world can trust for two specific reasons:

  • There is no written version of this fatwa anywhere – not in the Iranian parliament, nor on any official site (not even Khamenei’s). Although some verbal fatwas proved to be binding, the fact that such an important fatwa is not written nor has it been passed as law by the parliament weakens its strength as a binding commitment.
  • The fact that fatwas, according to Muslim law, may be rescinded by the issuer of the fatwa or by his successor without any reservations or problems further weakens the calls of Iranians to portray the fatwa as “proof” that Iran is not seeking the bomb.

Basically, if this is the most “solid proof” of Tehran’s innocence, we are in big trouble. If we add this weak link to the stream of accusations and threats reminiscent of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the word “trust” is the last to come to mind.

More reasons for mistrust

Anti-US_TehranThe US, “the Great Satan”, is accused regularly of everything from being the agent behind all terrorism in the Middle East (#potcallingkettleblack) for promoting Islamophobia, for creating the ebola virus, for changes in the climate etc…

The accusations, sometimes ringing true and sometimes sounding ridiculous, are backed with constant threats of “eradicating” the US’s ally in the region – Israel. Khamenei even issued a 9 point plan on how to destroy Israel.

These threats become ominous when they are backed by boasts by Khamenei, IRGC commanders, politicians and mullahs of Iran’s missile power which, if and when Iran reaches break-out point, can bring nuclear destruction to any enemy in its sights.

In the end, as long as Tehran has a nuclear program, nothing Rouhani can say or do can create enough trust to believe that it won’t lead to a nuclear bomb. Only full compliance over time can do that.

The world has to accept that no nuclear deal will magically destroy any chance for Iran to make a bomb – at best, it can only delay the break-out point.

Owning a Dog in Iran = 74 Lashes

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This could have been funny if it were not sad: Dog owners in Iran are liable to receive 74 lashes.

Here’s what the law says: “Anyone who walks or plays with animals such as dogs or monkeys in public places will damage Islamic culture, as well as the hygiene and peace of others, especially women and children”. The Koran doesn’t forbid dogs but that doesn’t seem to bother the lawmakers in Iran. Oh, the law doesn’t apply to the police, hunters and farmers.

74 lashes for owning a dog in Iran! And this follows human rights chief Larijani’s “Oscar-winning” performance at the UPR in which he categorally stated that there is no torture in Iran. Perhaps that’s because Larijani has created a new loophole in what he calls “multi-cultural” human rights: that would mean that if Iran decides to punish someone with 74 lashes for owning a dog in Iran, that should be OK because it is simply part of Iran’s culture.

Endless Circles on Road to Nuclear Deal

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Endless Circle 1: Khamenei’s Red Lines

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One look at Supreme Leader Khamenei’s red lines for nuclear negotiations is enough to understand that Iran is in no mood to compromise on anything any time soon. All his red lines focus on maintaining Tehran’s nuclear program “as-is” despite the fact that the problem arises from the transgression of numerous red lines set down by the IAEA over the past decade.

Sanctions were put in place due to the fact that Tehran crossed the IAEA’s red lines and it is these sanctions inadvertently brought about the election of Rouhani whose critical goal is to rid Iran of the sanctions. But Khamenei isn’t budging: He wants the sanctions removed and his nuclear program intact.

But in the meantime, he is leading the world around and around in circles, speaking first of “heroic flexibility” and then retreating back to defiance.

It’s like someone caught stealing who wants to plea bargain his way into keeping his freedom and the loot.  Or like having a cake, eating it and asking for more.

 

Endless Circle 2: Crossing IAEA Red Lines

iaea

Although Rouhani promised greater transparency and although Iran has stopped, as far as we know, enriching Uranium beyond 5%, parts of Tehran’s nuclear program remain hidden from the eyes of IAEA inspectors and the world.

Iran is still not answering any questions regarding possible military dimensions of its nuclear program and there is still no entry to the Parchin military base which seems to be the focus for military experiments in nuclear devices.

Once again, Tehran goes full circle from transgressing, agreeing to transparency and transgressing once more.

 

Endless Circle 3: Hardliner vs. Charm Offensive

Mohammad Javad Zarif

Supporting Khamenei are a bunch of eager hardliners who want to remind the world that Iran isn’t going to give in promising to increase enrichment if nuclear negotiations falter, that Iran’s missile capabilities are enormous, that no one will cross Khamenei’s red lines etc… Even FM Zarif who adopted Rouhani’s charm campaign knows how to echo Khamenei’s red lines when he suggests that a deal is possible only if the P5+1 would “officially recognize” Tehran’s nuclear program in its entirety.

Hello Mr. Zarif! Skilled negotiators such as yourself and your president should know that Iran will have to give something in order to get something. Perhaps he knows something about the steadfastness of the West we don’t? Or perhaps, this is simply endless-circling diplomacy – Zarif is a wizard at turning hot and cold repetitively, effusing optimism and pessimism in quick succession

 

Endless Circle 4: Iranian Double Talk

sanctions

Another form of counter-productive rhetoric that complicates the negotiations is the issue of the effect of sanctions. Rouhani won the election with a promise to free Iran of the sanctions and he seems definitely focused on this goal.

To most people around the world, including Obama himself, the only reason that Iran is even willing to negotiate a deal is the pressure of sanctions on the Iranian economy. And it’s working: Lo and behold, the few sanction reliefs have already kick jumped Iran’s economy.

But somehow, some leaders including Zarif himself continue to belittle the effects of sanctions (“sanctions have utterly failed“) while striving to make them disappear at the same time…once again,endless circles that give Iran more time without making any hard decisions.

Obama may be sending letters to Khamenei and Kerry might be writing checks that he can’t deliver but for Khamenei, the US was and remains the “Great Satan” which represents the “arrogant powers” who are doomed to failure under the great Islamic Awakening and the upcoming “Century of Islam”.

 

Breaking the Endless Circles: Just Answer 3 Questions!

Iran will have to decide which is better – a nuclear deal or increased poverty?

The West has to decide – can Iran can be trusted with a nuclear program?

And we should all ask ourselves – what happens after Khamenei?

One year in jail for watching a volleyball game

volley ball 3

Following our earlier post on Ghoncheh Ghavami

A short recap: This young British-Iranian activist for women’s rights was picked up by the police for watching a volley ball game in a gender segregated stadium.

She was released, rearrested and sent to th einfamous Evin prison where she has spent over 100 days and nights – at least 40 in solitary confinement – with limited connections to her lawyer and family.

At first, no one knew what were the charges – Iranian media reported that she would be charged for espionage at one point but this week, the sentence went through and she received one year in jail for “propaganda agains the regime”.

She is now on her second hunger-strike.

All this follows another post regarding Iran’s head of human rights, Javad Larijani’s “outstanding oscar performance” and the UPR of Iran in which he made Iran sound like a paradise for human rights.

Here are a few relevant quotes which are in stark contrast to what Ghavami has been through and will continue to go through for the next 9 months:

  • Larijani: Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
    Iran 24/07: He forgot to mention the severe gender segregation that landed Ghavami in jail in the first place.
  • Larijani: All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
  • Iran 24/07: Ghavami, a British-Iranian national, may be “equal before the law” in Iran but she still has very limited access to her lawyer and has remained in jail since she was picked up over three months ago.
  • Larijani: Iran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
    Iran 24/07: ghavami was picked up at the stadium and was reportedly “beat up a bit” before letting her go and picking her up again…this time to jail.

Larijani’s speech at UPR nominated for Oscar

larijani

Viewing Javad Larijani’s speech at the Universal Periodic Review is not easy to do – Iran’s Human Rights chief filled his speech with self-righteousness, generalizations and justifications coming off as if there are no human rights problems in Iran…at all.

Watching it three times in succession maked it easier to understand: Larijani’s speech is just too good to be true and he is simply lying.

 

Lie after lie after lie…

Here are a few of Larijani’s best lines:

  • Larijani: Iran continues to “fully participate” for the “promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Iran promotes human rights? Iran was ranked 167th with a 36% average by the International Human Rights Rank Indicator in 2013 – Iran still has a long way to go!
  • Larijani: Since the last report, Iran has “constantly worked for further promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Constantly worked? Since its last UPR, Iran received 212 recommendations, accepted 126 (59%) and implemented only 5 (2%)…in 4 years!
  • Larijani: “The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government”.
    Iran 24/07: The will of the people? How about the will of the people who elected three political leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard) who are still under house arrest after 4 years?!
  • Larijani: Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
    Iran 24/07: Without any discrimination? The regime systematically discriminates on the basis of gender (in sports stadiums, municipality offices…), religion (over 300 individuals in prison because of their religion), age (girls married at the age of 9), sexual orientation (capital punishment for gays) etc…
  • Larijani: Baha’is enjoy all the possibilities/privileges of Iranian citizens.
    Iran 24/07: Bahai’s enjoy rights? Bahai’s, like Christians and Kurds are treated like Iranians as long as they do not preach their faith and ideals – once they do that, they are systematically persecuted by the states and vigilantes for trumped charges of espionage!
  • Larijani: Iran creates and maintains the “necessary measures for the protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups” (especially women and children).
    Iran 24/07: Protecting women? The latest spree of acid attacks for “bad hijab” were sparked by a law, passed in the Iranian parliament to enforce “enjoining good and forbidding wrong” by empowering civilian vigilantes!
  • Larijani: There are no forced legal marriages of children in Iran.
    Iran 24/07: No forced marriages? The legal age for marriage in Iran is 13 but girls as young as 9 can be married with permission from a court –Does Larijani want us to believe that all the 40,635 brides under 15 (including 1,537 under 10) married between March 2012 and March 2013 really consent to their marriages?!
  • Larijani: Iran adheres to a full separation of powers (executive, legislature, judiciary).
    Iran 24/07: Full separation? The IRGC which is the real basis of power in Iran is active in all three allowing the IRGC the power to circumvent the law repeatedly just as they did with Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard!
  • Larijani: All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
    Iran 24/07: Rights to lawyers and innocent until proven guilty? Ask Jason Rezaian, a WaPo reporter, or Goncheh Gavami, a women’s rights activist – both were picked up and thrown into solitary confinement with limited access to their lawyers on trumped-up charges of espionage…and are still in jail!
  • Larijani: Iran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
    Iran 24/07: No torture or arbitrary arrests? Just google “Iran torture” to get an idea – people still get nabbed from their houses/offices and are thrown into jails where they are treated to abuse, beatings, rape and torture – Reyhaneh Jabbari herself was thrown into solitary confinement and tortured in an effort to get her to confess!
  • Larijani: Iran has “continuously worked for the promotion of human rights ” (with the UN).
    Iran 24/07: Working with the UN? Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran has not been allowed into Iran since taking office in 2011 because of accusations by Iran that his reports were unfair and political…Is that how Iran “cooperates” with the UN?!
  • Larijani: The imposition of (unjustified and unfair) sanctions in Iran has created obstacles to human rights.
    Iran 24/07: Unjustified and unfair? The responsibility for the sanctions lie wholly on Iran’s continuous strategy of evasion, lies, lack of transparency and non-adherence to IAEA policies and requests in its nuclear program including denying access to IAEA inspectors until today!
  • Larijani: Iran “adheres to renouncement of all forms of violence” and calls for unity in “combatting all forms of terrorism and extremism”.
    Iran 24/07: Renouncing violence and battling terrorism? When Larijani, like other Iranian leaders talk about fighting terrorism they conveniently “forget” that Iran supports state-sanctioned terrorism through its Qods forces and proxy terrorist organizations (Hezbollah and others) in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries!

 

What to expect? More lies…

Larijani and all the top leaders in the regime understand the rules of the game well: when in trouble, lie, conceal and gain time.

Larijani can say whatever he likes because he knows that nobody can really check up on him – especially since he banned the Shaheed from entering Iran.

And in a way, this method of lying and concealing resonates through all the interactions between the regime and the rest of the world in the fields of human rights, nuclear programs, military operations, terrorism etc…

Lie, conceal and gain time.

Iran’s Human Rights Problem? Find out on October 31st at UPR of Iran.

shaheed 2

Year after year the accusations against the regime in Iran for systematically abusing human rights are met with fervent denial and accusations of unfairness. The human rights activists within and outside Iran shout “foul” and the Iranian leadership shouts “foul” right back reminding one of a conversation by two deaf, dumb and blind people.

 

Shaheed Accuses, Larijani Denies

If you listen to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, the severe human rights abuses in Iran are getting worse over time, despite the promises of “moderate” President Rouhani: in his latest report he notes that the rate of hangings, gender discrimination, incarceration of political opposition, curtailing of freedom of speech etc…are on the rise. Iranians’ human rights, especially if they are religious/gender/sexual/age minorities are abused daily by state laws, state enforcers (police and IRGC) and vigilantes.

So what is the response of Javad Larijani, Iran’s Human Rights Chief?

He negates the need for a UN special rapporteur to Iran (since Iran doesn’t have a human rights problem); claims that Shaheed is biased against Iran; blames Shaheed for not sharing  his research methods and for ineffective research (since he is banned from Iran); accuses Shaheed for fabricating documents as part of a conspiracy to hurt Iran; accuses Shaheed for supporting terrorists “extensively” (because he calls Iranian dissidents advocates of human rights); states that Shaheed as insulted Islam (as a Muslim himself).

Bottom line, he portrays Shaheed as a “media actor who acts for those media which air propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and as simply “irrelevant“.

But then again, Larijani believes that the real problem is a cultural one since Iran rules by the laws of Islam and Shaariah and not by secular laws. According to Larijani, being gay is a sickness, there are no political prisoners, no religious persecution and stoning to death is legitimate. Deaf, dumb and blind.

 

When Denial Becomes an Abuse in Itself

Shaheed is not alone in his criticism of Iran. He is supported by hundreds of NGO’s and thousands of activists who are horrified by Tehran’s state-legitimized abuses of human rights or as Amnesty put it: “Iran is a serial abuser of human rights”.

Who would agree with the above statement?

  • Rouhani, according to all his pre-election promises, would agree.
  • The women who were attacked by acid throwers for “bad hijab” would agree.
  • The tens of Christian pastors in prison awaiting hanging would agree.
  • The hundreds of victims executed would have agreed.
  • The thousands of political dissidents and journalists in prison would agree.
  • The tens of thousands who are arrested without trial and tortured would agree.
  • The hundreds of thousands who never received a fair trial would agree.
  • The millions of women who are discriminated at work and in leisure would agree.
  • All minorities would agree.

But Tehran keeps on denying and this denial is in itself an abuse of human rights because it doesn’t even acknowledge the abuses perpetrated in its cause.

 

The Real Problem with Iran – Denial.

The real problem with Iran is not whether it empowers the abusers of human rights but the fact that it is bundled up in its lack of transparency, its inability to deal with criticism and its endless denials. The real problem is deep-seated in a regime which rejects any questioning and requires Iranians to follow the law of Islam as dictated since 1979. The lack of freedom to question, to criticize, to investigate, to accuse…

Iranians are to be “deaf-dumb-blind” in everything except for the laws of the Islamic State.

This “deaf-dumb-blind” requirement isn’t only for Iranians: It is meant for all foreign intervention, whether it be on the issue of human rights or nuclear bombs.

On October 31st, the UN’s human rights council will hold its periodic review (UPR) of the state of human rights in Iran. Judging from Iran’s response to the last UPR four year ago, no need to hold your breath: Iran rejected 41%(86) of the recommendations and has implemented only 2% (5).

upr3

 

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Cause and effect: Hijab laws in Iran lead to acid throwing

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In Iran, the vigilante monsters who throw acid in a woman’s face because of “bad hijab”, are doing so in the name of Islam.

Even worse, they do so in the name of the law as well: acid attacks began immediately following the passing of a bill in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, to enforce the proper use of hijab by empowering vigilantes.

 

hijab ticket

The Politics of the Hijab

Hardliners in the Majlis have been calling for harsher enforcement laws for “enjoining good and forbidding wrong” for ages but even more so since Rouhani took office. This is perhaps in response to Rouhani’s election promises to tone down the hijab laws and to give women more freedom or perhaps even in response to Rouhani’s efforts to close a nuclear deal with the West.

Already back in July, a statement signed by 195 Majlis representatives called on Rouhani to back “efforts to change the lifestyle of Iranian people regarding modesty and hijab” as part of the war against “cultural invasion against the Islamic regime”.

In their petition, they called the hijab situation in Iran “disgraceful” that did not “meet the dignity of the Islamic republic”. The co-signers of the petition blamed TV/internet for the situation but mostly they blamed themselves: “If when we first saw a person with bad Islamic hijab we confronted her and prevented her from entering meetings, offices etc, there would have certainly been no second or third such person. But since we ignored the case, the problem has now become rampant where we cannot enforce it even in our own families and can’t even mention the idea or give advice on it.”

 

Rouhani & Women

Rouhani’s Shining Moment

To be fair, not only has Rouhani repeatedly spoken out against harsh hijab enforcement, but he slammed the proposed bill in the Majlis at the outset and his outspoken reaction to the acid attacks shines as a beacon of what could be right in Iran.

Not only did he quickly condemn the attacks but he promised the attackers “the most severe punishment” while attacking the regime itself: “The sacred call to virtue is not the prerogative of a select group of people…a handful taking the moral high ground and acting as custodians…all under the banner of Islam.”

Unfortunately, Rouhani’s track record in fulfilling promise, especially in human rights, is inversely proportional to the amount of promises that he made.

But while Rouhani promised that the government would pursue the case with “all its might”, other Iranian leaders simply went into denial.

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Regime Leaders Keep On Denying

Javad Larijani, Iran’s Human Rights chief, for example, blames (drum roll) “foreign agents” (clapping). But then again, Larijani fervently “believes” that Iran doesn’t have a human rights problem and sees, like his brother and Majlis speaker, Ali Larijani, foreign intervention in any criticism against Iran. By the way, Javad’s other famous brother, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, doesn’t see the connection between the acid attacks and the enforcement bill passed at the Majlis.

Instead of taking responsibility, the Majlis national security committee chief, Abbas-Ali Mansouri also blamed “foreign and Zionist intelligence agencies” for trying “to distort the image of Islam”.

The acid attacks and the ensuing protest caught the attention of the media with pictures and movies spreading around the world virally creating a backlash against the Iranian media who were warned about associating the attacks to the enforcement bill. Tehran prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Esmaili emphasized this further by explaining that connecting the two is “an immoral act”.  Denial, denial, denial and more denials.

The Iranian people obviously don’t believe that the linkage is not “immoral: thousands of men and women spontaneously took to the streets in protest while the main protests took place in front of the Majlis building shouting out slogans that equated the vigilantes actions to the horrors of ISIS (“Isfahan doesn’t want ISIS, stop acid attacks“).

 

And while the Majlis is far from being a group of terrorist ISIS thugs, the Majlis members should accept the responsibility of their actions: passing a bill to empower vigilantes to enforce hijab laws has spiraled out of control and has led to the suffering of these innocent women. Blaming foreigners and the women themselves is simply an act of cowardice instead of manning up.

 

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Rouhani, Stop Lying About Human Rights!

rouhani lies

 

As we’ve outlined in past posts, despite his promises for change, Rouhani’s record for doing something about the abuses of human rights in Iran is definitely not good.

In fact, whenever it comes to answering questions on human rights, he becomes evasive. But when it came to the point of jailing journalists, whether foreign or local, Rouhani chose to simply lie.

But this time, 135 Iranian journalists decided that enough was enough and issued an open letter to Rouhani stating, in nicer words, that he was lying.

This is in tune with the regime’s attitude towards human rights: as far as most Iranian leaders in the regime are concerned, specially the human rights chief Javad Larijani, there is no problem of human rights in Iran.

What they find hard to understand is that if they are evasive and lie about human  rights, it makes it harder for the world to believe them on other issues as well and in the nuclear issue in particular.

 

 

Iran-Saudi Relationship Back to “Normal” Again

iran saudi

For a few weeks, it seemed that the terror of ISIS had brought a thaw in the strained relationship between Riyadh and Tehran: Foreign ministers met and promises to strengthen relationships were exchanged.

This short spring was finally cut off when the Saudi FM, Prince Saud al-Faisal, icily stated that Iran is “part of the problem” of terrorism and extremism and that Iran should withdraw its troops from Syria (as well as Iraq and Yemen) in order to become “part of the solution”.

He is not alone in thinking this: Tehran DOES support terrorism and IS constantly meddling in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Gulf States, to name a few. But since Rouhani took office and especially since ISIS went on a rampage, Iranian leaders are blaming everyone, except for themselves, for the advent of terrorism. Apparently none of them can tolerate a dosage of truth that cuts through waves of hypocrisy, accusations and denials.

 

The Saudi’s Case Against Iran

Lately, the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have increased measurably:

  • Iranian Meddling in the Gulf: Iran’s efforts at “exporting the Islamic revolution” to the Gulf States include supporting Shiite factions and operating spy-terrorist cells – some of which have been apprehended. The Saudi monarchy rightfully fears an Islamic revolution in Saudi Arabia but more than that, it fears Tehran’s aspirations for regional dominance. The (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ((P)GCC) recently issued a warning against Iran for meddling in its neighbors domestic affairs bringing about loud denials from Tehran which “believes” in “moderation, domestic wisdom, good neighbor process and non-interference in affairs of adjacent countries” to the disbelief of the Saudis.
  • The Possible Nuclear Deal: The nuclear negotiations opened Tehran’s doors to the West and unnerved Riyadh to the point of seeking to purchase its own atomic bomb. Once the darling of the West, the Saudis were exasperated by the flow of Western delegations to Tehran and the steady crumbling of sanctions. The Saudis believe that any nuclear deal would only help Tehran create an atomic bomb.
  • The Civil War in Syria: While the Saudis simply funded the insurgents to topple Assad’s regime, the Iranians extended to Assad billions of dollars in credit, supplied him with munitions and operated Hezbollah/IRGC troops under the Qods chief Qassam Suleimani. Tehran further exasperated the Saudis (and the West) by repeated hypocritical requests to not interfere in Syria. The Saudis believe that Tehran wants to turn Syria into the next Lebanon, a satellite state that will support Iran at all costs.
  • The Crumbling of Iraq: The Saudi’s influence in Iraq dwindled with the rise of president Maliki, a Shiite, who naturally opened his doors to Tehran. But both Tehran and Riyadh were taken by surprise by ISIS’s indiscriminate rampage in Iraq. Facing a common enemy brought the grumbling neighbors together but Tehran’s accusations against the US and Saudi Arabia for the birth of ISIS unnerved the Saudis who are worried that Iran would like to turn Iraq into a supporting state as well.
  • The “Revolution” in Yemen: While all eyes were on the atrocities of ISIS, Shiite insurgents swiftly and quietly took over Yemen which had historically been a stronghold of Saudi influence. Unlike the situation in Syria, everything happened quickly, without bloodshed, and the Saudis at first outwardly accepted the change without any outcry. But inwardly, the Saudis were seething: Once again, Tehran’s influence was growing at the expense of Riyadh. For the Saudis, it was obvious that Iran wanted to turn Yemen into another Syria/Iraq/Lebanon.

 

Tehran at Cross-Roads

It’s obvious that Tehran was initially keen on the budding rapprochement with Riyadh. Many Iranian leaders, specially the smiling Rouhani & Zarif team, viewed a good relationship with Saudi Arabia as part of its “open-arms” to the West strategy. If Tehran and Riyadh could become “Best Friends” (at least for a while), a nuclear deal and elimination of sanctions would be imminent.

But the (P)GCC accusations of Iran’s meddling efforts was viewed by Tehran as orchestrated by the Saudis and any remaining good feelings between the two finally evaporated following the “Iran is part of the problem” speech: ISIS was, Iran accused, a rogue child “funded by Saudi petrodollars” and “every act of terror in the Muslim world was funded by the Saudis”.

Furthermore, the Iranians feel that the Saudis are being hypocritical themselves since what seems to be bothering the Saudis is not the expansion of Iranian influence per se but the fact that this expansion is at the expense of the Saudis. For some in Tehran, a “third world war” has already begun and Saudi Arabia is just another obstacle doomed to extinction.

Finally, the recent death sentence issued by Saudi Arabia on Shiite Sheikh al-Nimr for anti-government speeches and subversion sparked more vitriolic accusations and warnings from Tehran.

Tehran is at a cross-roads: the changing spheres of power in the region, especially the ones fuelled by Islamic fundamentalism, are playing into Iran’s global vision of “exporting the revolution” and Tehran is heavily invested on several fronts at the same time. The danger for Tehran is in over-extending itself into substantiating a veritable Iranophobia not from the West but from its Arab neighbors who are less hesitant to call Iran’s bluffs than the West.