By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
28 July 2015
MANY foreign analysts thought the Saudi response to the nuclear agreement with Iran is resentful or, at best, ambiguous. Perhaps the reason for this confusion is coming from the “unofficial” statements about the future of the Saudi-Iranian relations.
Some Saudi analysts fear that the agreement would free the destructive hand of Iran in an unprecedented way, because nothing in the agreement discourages Iran’s from intervening in its neighbors’ affairs.
n the other hand, the “official” statements have welcomed the agreement, as long as it limits Iran's ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction, imposes transparency on its nuclear energy projects, and allows it to get safer technologies for the dangerously outdated nuclear reactors.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir warned Iran not to play with fire, and called on the international community to monitor the irresponsible acts of the Iranian government, represented by the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence agencies.
I do not see any ambiguity or contradiction between the two positions. Saudis are welcoming the nuclear deal with some reservation about its monitoring mechanism.
Iran has proven in many cases its ability to cheat in its agreements. Therefore we need a foolproof system that won’t allow any cheating, with strict punishment if it ever happened.
At the same time, we have shown our dissatisfaction with the absence of conditions in the agreements that would force Iran to change its irresponsible policies and practices in the region.
They have so far ignited sectarian, religious and national strife in Arab countries, and sponsored militias coups and destructive civil wars.
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen stand witnesses to these acts. Iranians have managed to do so under strict international embargo and sanctions, so imagine what they could do after the release of frozen funds, estimated at $100 to $150 billion in America alone.
We are dealing here with a rogue state that has, for three decades, disregarded international law, fostered terrorism, and insisted on expansion and intervention in the affairs of its neighbors.
It is a justified concern to expect the worse from an Iran freed from restrictions. Of course there is a glimmer of hope that the Iranians would get back their senses and take advantage of this acceptance into the civilized world and the enormous funds they will receive from Western banks and commercial interests that will follow the lifting of economic sanctions.
This is a golden opportunity to develop a country still using the same infrastructure built before the revolution by the overthrown Shah government, to achieve the aspirations of its people, half of them living below the poverty line, and to meet the needs of the new generation who chanted in rallies (not for Gaza nor Lebanon … my soul is for Iran).
It is their chance to rebuild the economic, trade, cultural and security bridges with its neighbors and to become their ally and partner in peace, enlightenment, development and security.
In this case, Iranians will find extended hands and open hearts welcoming and inviting them to take leadership position in a new Islamic world that preaches tolerance, cooperation and construction among its members and with the rest of the world.
Iran unfortunately is not unified. The great Iranian people are weary of war and rivalries with neighbors, and tired of interference in the affairs of others.
They yearn for a new phase where the construction, restoration and renewal of the great civilization of Persia within its current borders take priority.
An important part of the leadership seems to share this hope and seeks to achieve that dream. However, there are those who live in the past, led by superstition, moved by imperial ambitions, and follow one and only dream — re-establishing the Sassanian empire, (224 AD to 651 AD) which extended as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and west to Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt; and to the east and south of the Arabian Peninsula. Ironically, they exploited religion to achieve their pre-Islam dream.
The problem is that the upper hand today belongs to those Farsi extremists, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and supported by his henchmen in the House of Parliament, the Expediency Discernment Council, the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence agencies.
They keep disrupting the “reformist” president’s plans and hamper attempts to implement his electoral promises, in the hope that in the next elections, the Iranians would elect a hard-line government like that of Ahmadinejad.
Let’s hope and pray that the next legislative elections will bring more reformists in the House of Parliament and the Expediency Discernment Council, strengthening the hands of the President and his ability to make the right strategic decisions, in answer to Allah, and the expectations of Iran’s people, neighbors and the civilized world.
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.