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Unity among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt?

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TEHRAN, June 1 (ICANA) – Tension has been governing Iran’s relations with Saudi Arabia for a while now.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011 11:50:02 PM
Unity among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt?

Feeling threatened by Iran’s potential influence in Bahrain, a country of high importance to Saudi Arabia’s national security, the Saudi officials have been taking sharp stances against Iran. Sending Saudi troops into Bahrain to suppress people’s protests (that at first claimed their right status in the country’s highly politicized structure, but gradually turned violent as a result of state suppression) has also caused Iran to take pointed positions against its biggest southern neighbor.

Iranian analysts maintain that faced with the wave of awakening in the Arab world, the political system in Saudi Arabia is trying to prevent its sclerotic political structure to be affected by it. High dependence of Saudi Arabia on support from the United States and other transregional powers is a negative point for Riyadh. On the other hand, Saudis are willing to make a link between unrests in Bahrain or in Shia-dominant parts of their own country and Iran’s interference. As such, the existing discord between the two countries has been reduced to religious differences and no attention is being paid to political and civil demands of regional nations as the main impetus behind those protests. Meanwhile, the role of Israel has been downplayed and Arab states do not believe that their relations with the United States and Israel are a main source of consternation and frustration for their nations, especially the youth.

Most analyses provided these days are based on the presumption that conflicts among regional states, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, will worsen as time goes by. However, the approach taken to “restarting relations with Iran” by the new Egyptian government, protests to suppression of Bahraini people in Iraq, close ties between Iran’s economy and some littoral countries of the Persian Gulf, and recent diplomatic interactions between Iran and Kuwait prove that this process does not need to continue in the current way. Regional states can mend their old ways and take new approaches in their foreign policies in order to both stabilize the region, and strengthen their national power.

A plan for unity among Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq to form a single front deserves more attention. This argument is based on presumption that all these countries are Muslim, can become united, and sway spiritual influence on parts of the region and the Islamic world. In general, even speculation about their possible unity will improve international status of the Muslim world, let alone if practical steps were taken.

Given population structure of these countries, such a unity will dispel worries about sectarian strife between Shias and Sunnis and will provide a role model for the Muslim ummah. In addition, countries like Pakistan and Turkey can join in to increase behavioral, diplomatic and operational capacities of such a union. By focusing on soft power aspects of those countries’ policies, the unity can include the following stages:

- An effort to achieve a common position on supporting unity of Palestinians;

- Organizing common cultural events;

- Promoting cultural, artistic, and tourism relations;

- Coordinating the voting process in international bodies;

- Supporting seminars and conferences on interreligious dialogue within framework of Organization of the Islamic Conference;

- And many other interesting initiatives.

At a time that many countries are beating the drums of war, talking about unity and interaction may perhaps seem somehow odd, especially unity among countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt with their tumultuous diplomatic backdrop. Politicians in these countries should, however, note that hostility among regional states has been to nobody’s avail and has never been beneficial to their nations. The more the current situation continues, the more opportunities will be sadly lost. (Iran Review)

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