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Saudi Arabia and Iran…'Keep Your Hands Off'

Saudi Arabia and Iran…'Keep Your Hands Off'

Wednesday, 4 January, 2023 - 12:30
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

In 2007, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit (28) for the first time. It was held in Doha, and Qatar had invited him to be the guest of honor. During the summit, one picture drew particularly strong attention.

It was a picture of the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz - may God have mercy on his soul - Ahmadinejad, and the late Sultan Qaboos bin Saeed - may God have mercy on his soul - all holding hands. A short while later, I met the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the former Saudi foreign minister, in Paris as part of a team of editors-in-chief at the time.

In statements to "Newsweek" Magazine on the backdrop of Ahmadinejad’s visit to Saudi Arabia earlier in 2007, Al-Faisal said that King Abdullah had spoken openly with Ahmadinejad, stressing the Kingdom’s strong opposition to any Iranian interference in Arab domestic affairs, to which Ahmadinejad replied: “We do not interfere.”

The late King told the Iranian president not to play with fire and warned him against the nuclear file.

Because of these statements, Jamil Altheyabi - current editor-in-chief of Okaz newspaper and editor-in-chief of the Saudi version of Al-Hayat at the time - asked him a frank question:

“You give warnings to Iran, then a picture of (the late) King Abdullah and Ahmadinejad holding hands emerges, how are we to understand this situation?” Prince Al-Faisal then excused himself because he had received a call from the late King. We thought that the Prince had not heard the question.”

Prince Al-Faisal returned minutes later. “Do you want King Abdullah to tell Ahmadinejad: Keep your hands off me?” He was telling us that it had been Ahmadinejad who approached the Saudi King. We all chuckled, but I still remember this exchange, and it continues to affect my view of the Saudi- Iranian ties.

Iranian has made many statements about Saudi Arabia, and I am not only talking about countless tendentious statements. They are playing their game out in the open. There are no reformists in Iran, and Iran nevertheless releases statements calling on Saudi Arabia to negotiate and engage in dialogue and reopen its embassy. They are keen on arranging any kind of meeting, even behind closed doors, with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, or discussing the meetings that have already taken in Iraq further.

The question here is why is Iran so desperate to mend fences with Saudi Arabia? Beyond a doubt, its intention is to divide the Arab world, push the Saudi media to ignore Iran’s actions, and prevent Saudi Arabia from taking action on the international level to undermine Iran- just look at the summit between Riyadh and China.

Moreover, it is apprehensive about the potential for the US rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. This could shock many, including Iran. And so, whenever I see Iranian officials trying to make rapprochements, I remember the late King Abdullah. May God have mercy on his soul. “Should we say ‘keep your hands off me?’”

Of course not. However, we can say it with our stance, as we have become familiar with the Mullah regime in Tehran and how it functions, and we are now certain there are no reformers!

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