Why Iran and Saudi Arabia don't get along

Roundup
tags: Iran, Saudi Arabia



Mansour Farhang is a former professor of international relations at Bennington College, and was revolutionary Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations, but left Iran as a dissident in 1981. 

The stoning of the devil is a ritual of the annual Hajj, when pilgrims fling pebbles at three walls in the city of Mina near Mecca. Some zealous pilgrims believe that the sooner their stones hit the walls, the better their chances of going to heaven. Thus, the rush by thousands of people keen to perform the act can lead to stampedes that result in the death and injury of many pilgrims.

During the past 15 years, deaths resulting from stampedes at the Hajj ritual ranged from 1,426 in 1990 to 2,236 in 2015. Since 464 of the casualties last year were Iranians, the incident escalated the ongoing geopolitical animosity between the House of Saud and the clerical regime in Tehran, compelling Iran to refrain from participating in the event this year.

Riyadh and Tehran have been competitors in the Middle East since World War II, but it was the Iranian revolution of 1979 that transformed their rivalry into mutual hostility. Iran blames Wahhabism as the cause of the dispute, while Saudis believe the problem is rooted in Iran’s Shia-oriented hegemonic drive in the region. 

Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Shiism in the Islamic Republic each give competing interpretations of Islamic history and mythology, representing a kind of religious fundamentalism whose adherents tend to imagine the past and remember the future.

Moreover, in terms of political practice and treatment of dissidents, Iran’s Shia theocracy has much in common with the House of Saud. The ruling elite in both countries, while rivals for power and privilege, is united in claiming that they represent uncontestable and revealed truth about both the public and private spheres of life. In other words, they behave more as proprietors, less as rulers, of their respective states.

Needless to say, both sides can utter Quaranic verses to support their case. As Shakespeare taught us, “the devil can cite the Scripture for his purpose.” ...




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