Middle East: Powder Keg Politics

iranWith the lifting of Western sanctions against Iran imminent, JANE GREEN considers the implications of recent developments in the region for the Iranian people


THE reintegration of the Islamic Republic of Iran into the world economic community moved a step closer this weekend with the clean bill of health given to the Iranian nuclear programme by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA statement opens the way for the removal of financial and economic sanctions imposed upon Iran by the West four years ago.

While the sanctions have been crippling the Iranian economy, the leadership of the Islamic Republic has been moving towards a rapprochement with the United States since the initiation of secret talks in 2010, held in Oman.

As far as the West is concerned, lifting sanctions will mean that Iran is “open for business” and the regime’s leadership, desperate to shore up its credibility with a restive population, will do all it can to encourage further investment in the flagging economy.

The West’s relationship with Iran is by no means straightforward, however.

In the current conflict in Syria, the Islamic Republic has made no secret of its support for President Bashar al-Assad, while Western support has been channelled towards the so-called Free Syrian Army and assorted other groups opposed to the Assad government.

It is against this background that the recent breakdown in diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia must be considered.

The Saudis have long been regarded as allies of the West, being the recipients of major arms shipments from Britain and the United States, and they are seen as a safe pair of hands in the Middle East by Nato.

The situation in Syria has resulted in a more ambivalent attitude towards the Saudis, however.

The Arab dictatorship has consistently denied that it has provided any military hardware to Isis but it is widely accepted that Saudi weaponry has made it into the hands of Isis, either directly or indirectly.

In the wider context of the Middle East split between supporters of the Shi’ite and Sunni branches of Islam, the latter, supported by the Saudis, is more consistent with the Isis position.

With both Syria and Iraq being more inclined to the Shi’ite camp, of which Iran is the widely acknowledged leader, it is not difficult to see where Saudi allegiances lie.

There is no doubt that following the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, the Saudi dissident Shi’ite cleric, by the Saudi authorities relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have become critical and increased the possibility of dangerous conflict between the two countries.

The execution prompted groups associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and security forces to raid the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and the Saudi consulate building in the city of Mashhad.

It came as little surprise that Saudi Arabia announced that, following the attacks on the buildings of the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, it had severed its diplomatic ties with Iran and asked that Iranian diplomats leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.

The escalation of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia stems from the serious disputes between the two regimes about the domestic wars in Syria and Yemen.

In February 2015, the Saudi regime officially invaded Yemen to prevent the victory of Houthi forces and their allies who, as alleged by the Saudis, are supported by Iran.

This action by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf Co-operation Council was to prevent the fall of the previous Yemeni president, supported by Riyadh, and to control the political developments in Yemen in favour of the reactionary policies of the Saudi regime.

In relation to the domestic war in Syria, Saudi Arabia and the reactionary monarchists of the Persian Gulf, in alliance with Turkey and the United States and Nato states, want to transfer power from Assad, Syria’s elected president, to Wahhabi and Salafi groups which they support.

It is no coincidence that on December 28 Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a trip to Saudi Arabia just days before the executions which have resulted in the escalation of tensions in the region.

During his official talks with Saudi authorities, Erdogan spoke about the common vision of the two countries regarding the future of Syria.

He spoke of shaping the developments in other conflict areas in the region, including Yemen, stating: “It is clear that steps that are taken without considering the dynamism, sociology and the history of the region will only end in savagery and brutality.”

During the trip, Erdogan officially announced the joining of Turkey to the reactionary alliance of Sunni states engaged in Syria.

Reactionary pressure groups associated with the Revolutionary Guards inside Iran have taken the opportunity to pour fuel on the fire and have talked of “seeking revenge” for the execution of Sheikh Nimr.

Such statements will do nothing to calm tensions between the two states and the opposition inside Iran has called for both sides to step back from such provocative positions.

Any rise in tensions, or new military conflict in the region, could have potentially disastrous consequences for the Middle East as a whole.

In Britain, the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir), has pointed out the contradiction in Iran condemning the execution of Sheikh Nimr, when Iran leads the world league table of countries which employ capital punishment.

Iran executed almost 1,000 people in 2015. The record in previous years has not been less catastrophic.

Codir has, however, acknowledged that the execution of Sheikh Nimr was clearly an act of provocation on the part of the Saudis, while calling upon the Iranian government not to take the bait and increase tensions in the region any further.

The Iranian progressive and pro-democracy forces have characterised the situation in the Middle East as like a barrel of gunpowder that, in the event of any new military conflict, could lead to blood, fire and catastrophe for its already hard-hit people.

Codir will continue to support the call of the Iranian opposition to defend peace and support a peaceful solution based on the United Nations Charter.

  • Jane Green is national organiser for Codir.
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Arab League Takes Dim View Of Saudi-Iranian Proxy Spat

James Tweedie writes:


ARAB League foreign ministers held an extraordinary meeting with a single agenda item — condemnation of the ransacking of Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic mission in Iran and Tehran’s “meddling” in Arab affairs.

Saudi Arabia was expected to garner the support of 18 members of the 22-nation bloc, in which Syria has been represented by the opposition Syrian National Coalition since 2011.

The attack on the embassy followed Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shi’ite preacher and critic of the Saudi monarchy Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Tehran condemned the assault, but the communist Tudeh Party of Iran blamed it on elements linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guard, the paramilitary Basij militia and security forces.

And the party warned that diplomatic rows between Tehran and Riyadh were aimed at derailing Syrian peace talks and that both were determined to see the Syrian civil war pursued to the bitter end.

“The Middle East is like a barrel of gunpowder that in the event of any new military conflict could lead to a blood-and-fire catastrophe for its already hard-hit people,” said Tudeh international secretary Navid Shomali.

Tehran and Riyadh support opposing sides in the wars in Iranian ally Syria and Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour Yemen.

On Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem declared his government’s willingness to abide by the unanimous December 18 UN security council resolution calling for peace between Damascus and the “moderate” opposition.

But Mr Shomali said that there were those on both sides who wanted to scupper the deal.

He drew attention to a visit to Riyadh by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a leading proponent of regime change in Syria — days before Mr Nimr’s beheading.

– The US released a video on Saturday which it claimed showed Iranian Revolutionary Guards firing rockets dangerously close to shipping in the Persian Gulf.

The same day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to the secretaries-general of the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, warning that Saudi Arabia was trying to drag the whole region into conflict.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-a5af-Arab-League-takes-dim-view-of-Saudi-Iranian-proxy-spat#.VpOCCvmLQ_4

 

 

Diplomatic ties broken between Iran and Saudi Arabia

tudeh-roseThe statement of the CC of Tudeh Party of Iran on the breaking of the diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia and rise of tension in the Persian Gulf region 

Following the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, the Saudi dissident Shiite cleric, by the Saudi authorities, the political and diplomatic relations of this country with Iran – which have already deteriorated in recent years – have now become very critical and increased the possibility of dangerous conflicts between the two countries.

Subsequent to the calculated and provocative action of the Saudi’s reactionary rulers in executing Sheikh Nimr, the Saudi Shiite cleric, on Saturday 2 January , along with 46 other  people – who according to the published news were mostly affiliated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda – the hooligans associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij militia and IRI’s security forces raided the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and the Saudi’s consulate building in the city of Mashhad. During these raids, besides chanting proactive slogans, some of the demonstrators took advantage of the indifferent police force, entered the grounds of the embassy and set fire to part of the building and ransacked some of the documents and properties of the embassy. According to the media today (Sunday January 3rd) Adil al-Jubeir, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, announced that following the attacks on the buildings of the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, Saudi Arabia has severed its diplomatic ties with Iran, and asked that Iranian diplomats leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.

The provocative speech of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, outside of the diplomatic norms, about the execution of Sheikh Nimr, and the attacks and raids on the Saudi embassy and consulate building are politically and diplomatically unjustified. The invasion of the embassy of a State under any pretext is considered invasion of that country and in the eyes of the international bodies, including the UN, is condemned. It must be added that both the President and the head of the Iran’s Judiciary labeled the attack on the Saudi embassy as illegal and criticised the action.

It must be noted that the escalation of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia stems from the serious disputes between the two regimes about the domestic wars in Syria and Yemen. Last February, the Saudi regime officially invaded Yemen to prevent the victory of Houthi forces and their allies who, as alleged by the Saudis, are supported by Iran. This action by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council was to prevent the fall of the previous Yemeni President who was supported by Riyadh and to control the political developments in Yemen in favour of the reactionary policies of the Saudi regime. With regards to the domestic war in Syria, Saudi Arabia and the reactionary monarchists of the Persian Gulf in alliance with Turkey and the United States and NATO states want to transfer  power from Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s elected President, to Wahhabi and Salafi terrorist groups who they support. Iran, in a common front with the Russian Federation, Iraq, and Lebanese Hezbollah adamantly and practically support the continuance of Bashar al-Assad government and the foreign policy of the Syrian government.

The trip to Riyadh (on December 28th) of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of the main protagonists in continuing the bloody and destructive war in Syria, could not be unrelated to the decision of Saudi Arabia and the recent executions and the escalation of tensions in the region. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are central to the alliance of the Sunni countries involved in the developments in Syria. During his official talks with Saudi authorities, Erdoğan spoke about the common vision of the two countries with regards to the future of the Syria and shaping the developments in other conflict areas in the regions, including Yemen, and said: “It is clear that steps that are taken without considering the dynamism, sociology, and the history of the region will only end in savagery and brutality.” In this trip, Erdoğan officially announced the joining of Turkey to the reactionary alliance of Sunni states engaged in Syria.

What should be clearly stated is that the irresponsible statements of influential figures within the Iranian regime about the recent worrying events do not help in keeping the peace and calm at all and in fact serve the dangerous policies of the reactionary regime of Saudi Arabia. Ali Akbar Velayati, the Head of the Strategic Research of the Expediency Discernment Council in Iran said: “the indications of the Saudi government’s dissatisfaction with the events in Yemen and the developments of the region are seen in the execution of the Sheikh Nimr.” He said that he is “sure” that Saudi Arabia will suffer a military defeat in Yemen. Iran’s news media released the harshly worded statement of the Guards Corps which alluded to “seeking revenge” for the execution of Sheikh Nimr and threatened to “appropriately respond” to this action of Saudi Arabia. Iran’s Military also issued a statement denouncing the execution of Sheikh Nimr and stated that “it is time for an appropriate response to the crimes of the House of Saud.”

The Tudeh Party of Iran condemns the anti-people and reactionary policies of the Saudi regime and at the same time expresses its grave concern about the events of recent days and the dangerous escalation of tensions in the region. If this deepening crisis is not managed wisely and based on the national interests of our nation, it could be exploited by the warmongering circles on both sides and lead to further conflicts, and cause our nation to suffer from its unpredictable disastrous and devastating consequences. The Saudi regime is determined to take advantage of any escalation of tension against the Islamic Republic of Iran to strengthen its position in the region and to continue and deepen the isolation of Iran which will have huge political and economic costs for Iran. The reactionary and warmongering circles in the power structure of the theocratic regime of Iran could also exploit this tense environment and the possibility of conflicts to reshape the political atmosphere of the country, over the next few months leading to the parliamentary elections [in February], to their advantage and cause new problems and new rounds of devastating sanctions against Iran. Any rise of tensions and any new military conflict in the region could have disastrous consequences for the future of our country.

The Tudeh Party of Iran, which is a longtime critic of the anti-people regime of Saudi Arabia and its human rights record, condemns the provocative execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr and calls upon the appropriate international bodies like the Human Rights Commission of the UN to seriously deal with the continuing human rights violations in that country. At the same time, we denounce the raids on the embassy and consular building of Saudi Arabia in Iran and the damaging of their properties. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is bound to act upon its responsibilities according to the international diplomatic protocols. The Tudeh Party of Iran considers the protection of the interests of the people of Iran its national responsibility and its position is to defend peace and support a peaceful solution to end all disputes and regional conflicts based on the United Nations Charter and respect for the will and demand of the nations. Currently, the Middle East is like a barrel of gunpowder that in the event of any new military conflict could lead to a blood and fire catastrophe for its already hard-hit people.

The Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran

3 January 2016