Some Saudi Shi’ite intellectuals have issued a statement rejecting the Saudi authorities’ announced arrest of an espionage cell consisting of 18 members, including 16 Saudi Shi’ites, accused of collaborating with Iran. It should be noted here that Riyadh did not mention the sect or Iran officially.
The least that can be said about the Shi’ite intellectuals’ statement is that it is scandalous and erroneous, especially as the signatories of the statement accuse their country of playing the sectarian card and trying to avoid the inevitability of internal reform. This rhetoric clearly falls in line with the statements of Muslim Brotherhood symbols in Saudi Arabia. However, it is a fatal mistake. If the signatories went to the trouble of actually considering what the Iranian intelligence services are doing within Iran itself, then they would not have committed this error and issued a scandalous statement that not only discredits them inside Saudi Arabia, but also in Iran. The signatories should have waited for more results to be revealed from the investigations, and they would have discovered that this is not a story of sectarianism, for this is a naïve interpretation. Let us not forget that Iran previously exploited Saudi Sunnis, affiliated to Al-Qaeda, against their own country.
In order to understand the full picture, let us consider recent events in the Iranian sphere. President Ahmadinejad previously dismissed intelligence chief Heidar Moslehi in 2011, accusing him of suppressing his men, at a time when political differences were rife between Ahmadinejad, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Supreme Guide. The latter ultimately intervened and instructed the Iranian president to either reinstate Moslehi or step down, and after Ahmadinejad secluded himself for one week inside his home, he was ultimately forced to retreat and accept Moslehi’s return as head of the intelligence services. Moslehi, strongly backed by Khamenei after previously serving as his representative to the Basij, went on to say in 2012: “We will never allow the troublemakers and opponents of the revolution to repeat the sedition of 2009.” Moslehi even threatened Rafsanjani himself! This tells us that the Iranian intelligence services, or SAVAK, established by the CIA during the era of the Shah, are not only guilty of foreign espionage, but they are also one of the most important tools for suppressing advocates of reform inside Iran itself. How, after all this, can anyone rush to the defense of those accused of spying for Tehran, and accuse the Saudi authorities of playing the sectarian card, while the Iranian intelligence services suppress their fellow countrymen and sect, with the help of Iranians loyal to the mullahs’ regime? Remember here we are not talking here about espionage cells in Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Azerbaijan, but those within Iran itself.
If the signatories released this statement in support of their sect then they should be condemned for doing so, because many Shi’ite Iranians also suffer from the repressive Khomeinist regime. If the signatories wanted to exploit regional circumstances to provoke the international community against their own country, Saudi Arabia, as happened in Bahrain, then this is also a mistake. They have failed to realize that Washington considers Iranian intelligence to be one of the leading threats against it and our region, and a recent US report indicated that the Iranian intelligence services have approximately 30,000 spies across the Middle East.
Therefore, the Shi’ite intellectuals’ statement is reckless and scandalous. It is political maneuvering with sectarian motives. It does not serve to exonerate the defendants as much as it harms the rational Shi’ites among us.