Saudi Arabia has warned Iran that it could endanger the whole Gulf region if it does not resolve the problems in its “international relations”, a reference to Iran’s increasingly tense standoff with the United States over its nuclear programme and its role in Iraq.
“We have advised them not to expose the region to dangers,” said King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi monarch. “We do not interfere in anyone’s affairs, [but] any state which resorts to unwise acts will have to bear the responsibility in front of the other countries in the region.”
The king’s remarks, made in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Seyassah, comes amidst increasingly vocal criticism of Iran by officials and the press in the Arab world.
“We are extremely worried about the policies of Iran and the rhetoric coming out of Iran which adds to the tensions in the region,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “Their rhetoric confirms the worst fears of the west has about Islam.”
America’s main allies in the Arab world – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – are deeply concerned about the influence Iran has come to wield in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Iran, with its support for the Lebanese movement Hizbollah and the Palestinian Hamas – two uncompromising opponents of Israel – is seen to be propelling the region in a direction counter to that where America’s allies want to lead it.
Tehran’s backing of Hamas is said by some to be frustrating Egypt’s efforts to mediate between the Palestinian factions to forge a national unity government which would, in theory, be more receptive to negotiation with Israel. “Iran’s intentions are very clear,” wrote Osama Saraya, editor of the government-owned daily Al Ahram on Friday. “It is ... sowing corruption in every direction.”
But even if the Arabs are alarmed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its policies in the region, they do not want a US military strike against it. Mr Saraya says it would have “dire consequences” for the region.
“There is a kind of mobilisation of Arab public opinion,” said Abdul Moneim Said, the head of the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “But Arab governments are wise enough to realise that an attack against Iran would be detrimental to them and would help their radical opponents.”