Iran-Saudi Arabia: Quo vadis?

Even when the power shifted from the British to the United States (US), the pattern of paradoxical approach designed by Sir Winston Churchill remained the cornerstone of Western policies towards the Muslim countries of the Middle East.

The two aspects of the paradox were: attraction for oil so as to give boost to industry and trade and the urge to keep these Middle Eastern countries under control – the two salient features of imperialism.

The engineering of these countries was further complicated by the arrival of Pan Islamic Movement which began from Sudan and the emergence of communism in Russia.

The British and subsequently the US wanted to check the expansion of the two newly emerged realities, for these were opposed to Western system of democracy and capitalism.

In “A History of the English speaking people” Vol. 6, Churchill remarked about orthodox Islamic authorities as “fanatic hordes”. Hence forth, it did not require any extraordinary skill understand and decide how much these fanatics – who had been living from centuries all the way along the Southern parts of Russia from North – Western India, Afghanistan through Iran, Iraq, the GCC states, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, not to talk onward of North Africa down to Sudan – have indomitable faculty of faith and belief to control the advancement of atheistic communist Russia.

To conclude, the first section of this preamble, it is highly significant to quote Sir Winston Churchill again; first, from his book “The River War”: “What is the horn is to the Rhinoceros, what the sting is to the wasp, the Mohammadan faith was to the Arabs of the Sudan – a faculty of offence and defense,” and, secondly, from Churchill’s letter to Lady Lytton: “you will think me a pasha. I wish I were”.

Side by side with the above referred development went exclusively the relationship of the West with Iran after the end of World War II. At that time, the direction of the US foreign policy had been to go for pacts and alliances with Europe and Asia especially the oil rich Muslim States exactly in the same manner as the British desired an alliance with the Ottoman Empire before the First World War.

But no sooner had the Premier Dr. Mosaddaq nationalized the British Iranian Oil Company than he was house-arrested where he died in 1967. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahalve came to power who exalted himself as the policeman of Asia. Weapons were supplied to Iranian armed forces and support was given to pursue nuclear capability. But things changed and Reza was dethroned. He left Iran on January 16, 1979, Ruhullah Khomeini emerged as supreme leader who arrived in Tehran from exile in Paris on February 1, 1979, and who changed the country.

In Khomeini’s teachings over religiosity, the US started reading a threatening tone and therefore, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States started making arrangements under the supervision of the US. Tension and hatred turned into eight years conflict (1980-88) between Iran and Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Despite chemical weapons given to Saddam Hussein, Iraq was losing the war. Richard Clarke, who at a later stage was appointed President Clinton’s anti-terrorism Chief, revealed that Iraq was not winning the war and he was asked to prepare a draft to prevent Saddam’s defeat and to turn it into a statement.

The crisis of 1979-81 in which 52 US diplomats were held hostages for 444 days was the aftermath of Iran – Iraq war.

Although Americans kept on calling Iran an aggressor, the Iranians never considered them as their enemy. That is why, the government and the Iranian people condemned the 9/11 terrorist activity. Iran showed its intentions to offer intelligence services against Al-Qaeda activities. It was also ready to assist in raising the Afghan National Army and in promoting peace efforts in Afghanistan, but Americans turned down their offer.

As for acquisition of Iran’s nuclear capability, the core document happens to be Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which is not only ambiguous and biased but discriminatory also. It presents double standards and divides the signatories into two groups: those who possess nuclear capability prior to January 1, 1967 comprising China, Russia, France the UK and the US and those who did not have nuclear weapons.

The members of the first group are allowed to keep their nukes without monitoring of their nuclear activities by International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) while the second group comprising Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS)” who have been disallowed to possess and who are subject to monitoring by IAEA. However, there is a provision. If non-nuclear weapon states surrender the right to manufacture nuclear weapons, they are permitted the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only.

In March 2015 nuclear deal with the Western Powers, Iran’s achievement deserved full credit as they protected its interests by using the small clause about the possibility of working on nuclear capability for peaceful purposes, and thus turned tables by their audacious reasoning and sound evidence. It was only after signing the agreement that the Americans started crying over spilt milk.

Furthermore, the US now refuses to acknowledge that NPT provides Iran the right for peaceful purposes. The undertone of refusal is to maintain justification for ordering sanctions against Iran. Contrary to this, Iran is demanding compensation from the US for “inflicting damages” upon the people of Republic of Iran during the past 40 years.

Above all, it is a funny political wisdom on the part of US that it refuses to acknowledge Israel possessing the arsenal of nuclear “Vejars” while it goes on to impose sanctions against Iran which does not have any nuclear device!

The latest alliance of 34 Muslim countries headed by Saudi Arabia is another exercise against Iran. Such an aggressive Saudi Arabian policy will create more hurdles for the US to stand by its commitment or to redress balance between the alliance of 34 countries and Iran.

This alliance of 34 countries led by Saudi Arabia has divided the Muslim World into two separate blocs of Sunni and Shia, which would be lethal not only for Pakistan, but all other Muslim countries. Pakistan does not want to take sides. Rather it wants to play a reconciliatory role to bring back peace and end rivalry.

It is important to understand that this rivalry may not become part of bigger tussle between the US and NATO countries on one hand and on the other hand Russia, China and their allies in Ukraine and Syria. It seems that the time has arrived when the Western powers want the Muslims to come forward and join hands with them in order to stop their arch enemy Russia from reaching warm waters and expand its sphere of influence. But the Muslims are reluctant as they have suffered enormously due to pressure of Jewish lobby in the US administration which decision is making authority.

Of course, differences do exist in the Middle East in the form of ideological, ethnic, cultural and linguist identities but the major unifying factor is the awareness of one another for being near. They have been living close to each other for centuries. The binding forces of their faith, intermarriages, mutual trade, life style, their common experience replete with moments of joy and sorrow invite them to solve their major problems through negotiations and not through conflict. Fratricide or for that matter killing due to megalomaniac or egocentric stances is self-defeating to the principle of peaceful co-existence. Do they - Iran and Saudi Arabia - want to re-enact the drama of Cain and Able or the Ottoman Caliph attack on the Muslim city of Constantinople (the present day Istanbul) in 1453, forcing Muslim scholars to run away and settle in Greece, Italy, Bosnia, Hungary, Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, in short all throughout Europe which brought the light of Renaissance for Europe but was detrimental to the interest of Muslims till today? A conflict between Muslims has always been harmful, a painful lesson not only from the East Pakistan experience, but from Iran-Iraq eight-year war.

The Muslim world is a huge asset which should be saved from the dangerous effects of US-Russia antagonism. Rather, they should compel them to say good bye to conflict.

Shahid Zubair

The writer is a Lahore-based educationist

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