December 30, 2011

Cold Handshakes: Iranian Intelligence Minister visits Saudi Arabia

IRD: The Iranian Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi’s visit to Saudi Arabia has raised debates inside the Iranian diplomatic circles. The chain of events that began with the outbreak of Arab revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa and continued with US’ allegation of Iran’s attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington have made Moslehi’s visit to Riyadh a subject of intense speculation by the regional media and Western newspapers, and provoked criticism among certain Conservative mouthpieces inside Iran which called the visit hasty. IRD reviews the matter in an interview with Ali Akbar Asadi, Middle East affairs analyst:

IRD: What was the main goal of Moslehi’s visit to Riyadh considering the security relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

AA: There is not that much security exchange between the two countries; what we have now is only a security pact sealed at the time of Mohammad Khatami, the former president. Seemingly the visit was made due to the increasing tensions between Tehran and Riyadh and also regional developments. These are the only information that have been disclosed about this visit so far. The two countries were already engaged in tense relations, especially caused by the Saudi party, brought to a new level with allegations of Tehran's attempt to murder Adel el-Jubeir, the Saudi Ambassador to Washington. Iran and Saudi Arabia, beside Turkey, are the three main actors in the Middle East and any conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia may be followed by dire consequences for both. Although diplomatic interactions are expected to relieve the tensions, the regional rivalry between them won’t abate, especially because of Tehran's and Riyadh’s different policies regarding Bahrain and Syria. Iran and Turkey have also had some differences in their viewpoints about Syria, but they have tried to keep up their interaction within the recent months. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also regional competitors whose challenges have intensified in the recent months, but they try to keep their relations at a certain level. But the story is different when it comes to Iran and Saudi Arabia, as rivalry between them sparks tension and although diplomatic interactions could ease the strain to a certain extent, it cannot be expected to have a long-time stable impact.

IRD: What was the reason to dispatch Moslehi for negotiations with Saudis over Syria?

AA: This is just a minor concern and it relates to intragovernment policies. Two major axes were discussed in the negotiations between Moslehi and Crown Prince Naif; Bahrain and Syria. There is a wide range of regional actors calling for regime change in Syria and Saudis stand at the top of the list. Qatar and Turkey come next in the list, though Turkey has adopted a less hostile position due to certain considerations, while Saudi Arabia persistently follows the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Other countries -including Iraq- are seeking a different solution for Syria via the Arab League channel.

IRD: Western media talk of attempts by the US and Europe to convince Riyadh to tame the oil price in case that boycotting the Iranian oil is activated. Could this have possibly been on the negotiations’ agenda?

AA: Putting Iran under pressure through sanctions has been a regular option for the US in the last few years. For long, Saudis have wanted to increase their oil production to control the oil market. Riyadh has backed the Americans during the US attack on Iraq in 2003, after the 9/11 shock to the oil market and any other occurrence deemed to shock the international oil market. Boycotting the Iranian oil amounts to declaration of war against Iran, as some of analysts argue, since it threatens the country’s security and the likely reaction of Iran may aggravate tensions.
17 Saturday December 2011 1:47

1 comment:

luan said...

Middle east is just so lucky to got a lot of supply for oil. They're well known because of that. Anyway, it is good that they didn't increase oil prices.

Mary from tige filetée