Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Iran's New Foreign Minister Tells Us His Number-One Target: Getting the Saudis to Bow Down

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By Barry Rubin

What is the highest priority for Iranian foreign policy--I mean the official and public foreign policy, not spreading revolution and terrorism--today? According to the new foreign minister it's developing strong relations with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Ali Akbar Salehi, who by the way holds a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explained this in his first speech as foreign minister. His last job was running Iran's nuclear program. "Saudi Arabia deserves to have special political ties with Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia," says Salehi, "as two effective countries in the Islamic world, can resolve many problems together."

The means of  persuasion are indicated by Salehi's former job. Perhaps he can tell a few anecdotes about the nuclear program [warning: satire]:  "When I was busy getting our nuclear weapons ready--I told you we will have nuclear weapons soon, right?"

He will tell the Saudis that the United States cannot and will not protect them so they better accept the new era of a nuclear Iran and play ball with Tehran. Remember, as we know from Wikileaks, what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told India's leaders when he visited that country: Iran is getting stronger; America, under Obama, is getting weaker.

The Saudis, who aren't stupid, won't really submit to Iran but they will hedge their bets. After all, the United States isn't keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons and isn't countering the spread of Iranian influence in the region.

One can imagine the dialogue taking place in Saudi palaces [warning: more satire]:

Prince A: "That President Obama is a really nice guy! He likes us. He sort of bowed to our king. He says nice things about Islam. He just appointed a Muslim to head NASA."

Prince B: "Yes, and that President Ahmadinejad is not a nice guy. He won't hesitate to trample on us if we cross him. He will send terrorists to assassinate us and to blow up oilfields. Soon he will have nuclear arms and nobody will stand up to him. The Americans can't stop him from getting these weapons. They are afraid to attack him, as we asked them to do. They keep apologizing about past uses of force. They are pulling out of Iraq. They didn't help us save Lebanon from Iran and Syria. They let the Shah fall, ran from Somalia, left Vietnam. Shall I go on?"

Prince A: "Yes, I see what you mean. So what should we do?"

Prince B: "Well, we can start by getting Ahmadinejad a really really nice birthday present, say, the Persian Gulf."

Prince A: "Persian Gulf? Don't you mean the Arab Gulf?"

Prince B: "Not any more!"

Note: If you are wondering and want to get in good with Iranian leaders with a nice greeting card, reemember that Ahmadinejad's birthday is October 28. Supreme Guide Ali Khamanei's is July 17.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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