Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Tehran-Riyadh Line | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It took no more than one hour of telephone calls between Riyadh, Tehran and Beirut to end Lebanon’s unavoidable clashes that blockaded the capital with fires and barricades and even shootouts in some parts.

Although such contact has demonstrated that the Lebanese battles are in fact puppet shows manipulated from above or stopped from outside, what matters the most is that they have now been put to an end. Everything that contributes to stopping the gradual descent into abyss is praiseworthy.

However, the issue is more than just an hour of communication. It is a years-old, slow relation-building process between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has finally led to such joint action and proved that many fires could be put out through regional cooperation. Such a relation was initiated ten years ago in Pakistan’s Islamabad when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia surprised everyone by supporting the Iranian request to host the Islamic Summit Conference vis-à-vis the major boycott of Iran. Practically, since that date, we have entered a new era on the regional level, but due to circumstances and heated disputes, doubts have lingered on both sides along with an emergency phone line that is ready to be used in extreme cases as we have seen.

Despite how much we differ with them on serious issues in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, the Iranians are characterized by their ability to practice self-restraint and avoid being dragged into crises. They are clever regarding political calculations, keeping them outside of the shooting range whilst close enough to keep watch.

A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend. Iran is certainly not an enemy but a state that has calculations that do not always correspond with ours, with interests that it wants to serve as a major regional state, a matter which is also indisputable. When the picture is clear – and here it is not absolutely clear, because of the customary Iranian reticence – calculated relations can be established that will firstly prevent wars that may be triggered simply by a dispute amongst students at a cafeteria transforming into wars between major states or even superpowers. Secondly, such relations would strike a long-term balance. As we have seen, the fires on Beirut’s streets necessitated making the most of Iranian National Security Chief Ali Larijani’s travels back and forth between the countries and the heated telephone contact between Saudi and Iranian leadership to examine the seriousness of Iran’s statements and its promise of positive understanding.

Today, the positive result leads to expanding the sphere of movement beyond street crises to major issues that have become dependent upon negative relations and that have brought us to a dangerous stage of regional conflict that was not even witnessed during the Cold War.

The most recent crisis-defusing experience has proven that regional states are capable of solving their own problems as long as there is sincerity, will and the political agreement among the various parties on the major issues. This is the hope of millions of people in our region in order to arrive at a real solution for peace that involves everyone. All of the wars of the past have proven one thing: no issue is resolved until a lot of pain has been caused.