Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The “Jambiya” Mr. President | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Whilst Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament was visiting the Sultanate of Oman and Yemen, Tehran announced that it was sending two warships to the Gulf of Aden on the pretext of protecting Iranian commercial ships, especially oil tankers, from piracy. This is remarkable, as it is the first time that Iran has sent a warship into either the Gulf of Aden or Arab waters.

The concern here is that Iran is mobilizing its [armed] forces under the guise of protection from piracy, while its hidden objective is to strengthen its military positions in preparation for any forthcoming confrontation. The actions and intentions of Iran are of concern to the entire region, and in this case the apprehension is justified, especially if we recall the Iranian threat to the region with regards to statements exchanged between Israel and Iran. Tehran has previously – and by more than one official or representative – warned that it would target the Arab Gulf and its interests in the event of it being subject to any military strike. This means that on one hand Israel is threatening Iran, while in response [to this] Iran is threatening our region. This is both alarming and disturbing, and we have become akin to a hostage between two armed parties. This is why there is a concern with regards to Iran mobilizing its navy in the Gulf of Aden; the fear is that Iran is strengthening its [strategic military] position not in order to protect its ships but rather to put pressure on the regional countries and the US.

It is also worth noting that Larijani’s visit to Yemen was in order to seek the exporting of Iranian gas to the country, in spite of Yemen’s [previous] official complaint against Tehran’s interference in its [internal] affairs, specifically Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels and other organizations.

In this visit to Yemen Larijani took refuge in a soft diplomatic approach, declaring his country’s support for Yemeni unity, while also presenting Yemeni President [Ali Abdullah Saleh] with a Persian Rug. This is an [Iranian] symbol that is hard to ignore, and represents Iran’s long-term plan [to strengthen ties with Yemen] in the same way that a Persian rug can take up to 12 years to manufacture. This reminds me of something that I heard 5 years ago from an important Arab official with regards to his point of view on Iran, and its role in the region. After explaining his position, I asked the official if there were any positive signs from Tehran towards his country, he laughed and said “They are carpet weavers” and if you want to understand Iranian politics you must read about the weaving of Persian rugs.

Therefore despite the images and information reported by news agencies with regards to the meeting between the President of Yemen and his guest Larijani, it was not clear whether the Yemeni President responded to the Persian rug with a gift of his own. It would have been appropriated for Sana’a to present Larijani with a gift that is itself a symbol of Yemen!

For as long as Larijani has announced Iran’s support of Yemeni unity, the Yemeni President should have presented his Iranian guest with a Jambiya [traditional Yemeni dagger], on the condition that it is a Hadrami Jambiya, as this dagger has a long heritage in Yemeni history due to its rarity, and due to the fact that it cannot be sold, only bequeathed, in accordance with the ancient traditions of Yemen.