Saudi Ambassador to US Calls for Confronting Iran’s Malign Behavior

Saudi Ambassador to US Calls for Confronting Iran’s Malign Behavior

Tuesday, 24 July, 2018 - 08:00
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman. (SPA)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman called on Monday for confronting Iran’s malign behavior, instead of appeasing it.

He said in an article published by Arab News that it “is encouraging to hear US President Donald Trump make clear that we will not approach Iran with the sort of appeasement policies that failed so miserably to halt Nazi Germany’s rise to power, or avert the costliest war ever waged.”

He therefore called for supporting a broader strategy that would tackle the Iranian regime’s destabilizing regional policy.

“At a time of thunderous echoes of the 1930s — the sustained fallout from an economic crisis, extreme polarization of the political spectrum from the far right to the hard left, inaction from the global community and malignant actors determined to fill a void in leadership by spreading their ideology of hate and violence — it is incumbent on the global community to act with resolve. As the philosopher George Santayana famously declared: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ In the appeasement of Iran, we are clearly seeing something we have seen before. It is equally obvious that the strategy has already failed,” added the ambassador.

“Despite the best intentions of its architects, the 2015 nuclear deal and subsequent easing of financial restrictions on Tehran did nothing to stem the regime’s expansionist ambitions or eliminate its support for the Middle East’s most destabilizing extremists — in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere. Instead, it served only to grant the world’s most egregious sponsor of global terrorism rewards for temporarily suspending its apocalyptic pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“The deal was but part of a worrying pattern of appeasement. As Iran threw more and more economic and military muscle behind the murderous regime of Syria’s Bashar Assad, it was not punished. Instead, governments responded by offering Tehran a seat at successive Syrian peace tables. The result was predictable: No peace, and nothing that resembled a more accommodating Iran, which to this day stands by Assad, one chemical weapons attack after the next.

“Whatever your position on the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, we all should now answer a higher calling: Deterring Iran and its minions from their campaign of chaos. Even leaders who sought to salvage the nuclear deal recognize the importance of combating Iran now… As other nations and their peoples weigh the matter, it is worth considering the abundant and disturbing parallels between 2018 and 1938,” said Prince Khalid.

“The pernicious threat posed by Iran is at the core of its regime. The Iranian constitution calls for spreading ‘the ideological mission of jihad’ throughout the world. And from its first days, Ruhollah Khomeini exhorted his followers to conquer Muslim and non-Muslim land alike,” he continued.

“The Iranian state ideology is based on the concept of Wilayat Al-Faqih, a guardianship-based political system in which the people owe their allegiance to a supreme religious jurist (who also becomes the Supreme Leader) regardless of their nationality, geography or form of government. This supra-national doctrine aims to undermine the influence of legitimate state government by theocratic rule, and does not recognize the legitimate international order of governments. But is religion really at the heart of Iran’s interpretation of Wilayat Al-Faqih? If it were, then why wouldn’t a Supreme Leader emerge from Iraq’s religious centers, and under Wilayat Al-Faqih the people of Iran would pledge allegiance to him?” he asked.

“After almost four decades of malfeasance, we know the Iranian playbook. Tehran promotes sectarianism to divide communities. That leads to weakened or failed nations, which Iran then controls through proxy organizations,” he stressed.

“The lack of concrete reactions to these activities, and the fading of ‘red lines’ in Syria, made the Iranian view clear: The US — and the world — was handcuffed and had only words of condemnation in response. That message is changing now and we believe President Trump when he says: ‘The United States no longer makes empty threats.’”

Prince Khalid blamed the current situation in the region to the international community’s policy of appeasing Iran.

“The Iranian regime’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif desperately attempts to present a moderate face outside his country. He doesn’t even try at home, where such networks are banned, demonstrating that what he says is mere lip service to the West. President Hassan Rouhani similarly seeks to beguile the world with talk of reformers who might one day replace the ‘hardliners’ holding the levers of Iranian power. It is an elaborate ruse from leaders who are part of, and benefit from, the same system of repression,” he charged.

“Five years into Rouhani’s presidency, the West’s policy of appeasement to ‘empower’ him clearly has not done much good for ordinary Iranians,” he added.

“The Iranians are a civilized people and want the same things that we all want, a better quality of life and a better future for themselves and their children. But as the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pointed out, the Iranian regime has not invested in a single road or major civil project since the nuclear agreement was signed,” stated the ambassador.

“Those who have not learned history’s lessons counsel us to let the Iranians subvert the entire Middle East while granting them as many financial enticements as possible. The rationale has been to preserve a nuclear deal that has done nothing to resolve the region’s troubles, and appeal to the Iranian regime’s better angels. A wiser and ultimately more moral approach is to pressure Iran to correct its awful behavior immediately.

“As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has emphasized repeatedly, standing up to the forces of aggression may entail more cost in the short term. But it is the only real strategy for preventing already grave threats to snowball into wider, and potentially far deadlier, conflicts. ‘We will not repeat an agreement that was reached in 1938 and that led later to the Second World War,’ the crown prince said in Paris this year at a conference with President Emmanuel Macron.”

“Following the path of appeasement will lead countries in the region to lose faith in international law. They will see that proxy militias can be tools of foreign policy, unchecked by the world community. They will change and adapt to this new reality — and not for the better, I fear. We cannot pass the buck and hope things get better. Committing to a firm policy of containing Iran, and all its mischievous activity, will solve more problems than just saying: ‘Something must be done.’”

“The world must join us to confront Iran with seriousness and intent. Iran needs to know it will pay a price if it continues to violate international law and interfere in the affairs of its neighbors. Iran must be punished economically and diplomatically, with all options kept on the table to ensure the strength and integrity of diplomacy. And the Middle East’s legitimate state institutions — in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere — need to be supported as they fight Iran’s proxies of chaos.

“Only such a course of action will allow the seeds of modernization, growth, and innovation to flourish across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will do its part. We need as many partners as possible,” said Prince Khalid.

Comparing Saudi Arabia with Iran, he remarked: “Those who adhere to terrorism and violent extremism are but a small minority in both Saudi Arabia and Iran. The difference is that in Saudi Arabia these terrorists are on the run, while in Iran they are running the country.”

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