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Who's in Charge of Iran's Foreign Policy? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Acting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made a nice statement about the necessity of Iran improving its relations with Saudi Arabia, saying “Saudi Arabia deserves to have special political ties with Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia, as two effective countries in the Islamic world, can resolve many problems together.”

However an important question needs to be answered before observers can be certain that what Salehi is saying is true and not a new political ploy by Tehran that aims to neutralize Saudi Arabia in the coming period. This is particularly important as this comes after the [leaked] US cables revealed that the Iranians are well aware of Riyadh’s position towards their nuclear ambitions – and this is not through [Tehran] reading the US diplomatic cables that were leaked by WikiLeaks – but rather due to what the highest authority in Saudi Arabia told the Iranians during a face-to-face meeting. It has been revealed that the Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz told the Iranians that they have no business meddling in Arab matters. It was also revealed that King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz gave the Iranians an opportunity to improve mutual relations, however Tehran did nothing in this regard, even after King Abdullah improved his relations with Iran’s [Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani and [former president Mohammad] Khatami.

So the question that we must ask here is: who is in charge of Iran’s foreign policy? Is it the Supreme Leader, the Iranian President, or the Foreign Minister? According to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s major [foreign] policies have a pre-defined framework and principles…and the Foreign Ministry is the only [state] organ that is tasked to implement these.” Anybody reading Salehi’s statement about the necessity of improving relations with Saudi Arabia, due to Riyadh’s Islamic, political, and international position, might view this as a formal Iranian acknowledgement that Tehran’s foreign policy towards Riyadh in the past was both incorrect and a failure and that Tehran is therefore trying to repair this relationship today. However does this mean that Mottaki was stronger than the Supreme Leader and the Iranian President, in being able to enforce this foreign policy since 2005 whilst they were unable to do anything about it? This is not believable or indeed even conceivable. For what power did Manouchehr Mottaki possess, especially as he was not in charge of any armed forces or militia, and the humiliating manner in which he was removed from office only serves to prove that he did not possess any such strength.

Of course we hope that Iran’s relations with everybody, not just Saudi Arabia, are good and stable, however politics is more than words, for these must be followed by action. This will continue to be Iran’s major problem with all the countries in our region, not just Saudi Arabia, regardless of what embellished diplomatic rhetoric they use, particularly as we have begun to notice today that a more open language is being used publicly by regional states – and Saudi Arabia – towards Iran. This is because we are living in a post-WikiLeaks world. The Iranians should be afraid, and this is for one simple reason, which is that we have not seen any Arab anger or criticism – whether publicly or in the media – towards what WikiLeaks revealed some regional states said about Iran. This is something that the Iranians must pay attention to!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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