Saudi Arabia’s soft power vs. Iranian interventionist power

The difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran cannot be more striking.

Evidently, Riyadh has avoided interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, used its resources for the well being of its citizens, and constructively contributed to regional stability. In offering financial aid to other countries, Riyadh is, by and large, driven by humanitarian rather than political considerations. Never had Riyadh exploited the poverty of other countries to find satellite states.

On the other hand, Tehran presents a different model. It is driven by its national interest. Interestingly, tension in the region help Tehran establishes proxy relationship with others. This web of relationship with proxies help Iran implement its strategy in the region as a whole. This kind of policy has enraged other players. Suffice it here to mention two incidents: Senegal expelled the Iranian ambassador and Bolivia expelled the Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmed Vahidi for being involved in the infamous Buenos Aires explosion of 1994. Iran’s relentless efforts to gain nuclear capabilities have only fed the already existed mistrust in the region.

If anything, Iran has dedicated resources for ambitions and dreams that cannot materialize. One of Iran’s problems in promoting itself is its image as a revisionist state. Hardly can we find a country that trust Iran, let alone be convinced by its rhetoric. The world of today mocks states wasting resources in support of “terrorism” while their people live in poverty and external handouts. The internal scene in Tehran is also discouraging other states as Iran prosecutes other non-Persian ethnic minorities.

Iran is benefiting from its image as the only Shiite state, which is set to protect Shiite communities. It collects a tax called “fifth,” which refers to a percentage of the wealth of Shiite to be paid to the state. It makes some $12 billion a year! Yet the world of Shiism is not monolithic. This brand of Shiism is different from the Alawites for instance. Also Iran fought hard to make Qum in Iran rather than Najaf of Iraq as the center of Shiism. It is against this backdrop that Iran antagonized scholars such Mohammed Hussein Fadil Allah and Jawad Al-Khalsi. Not only these scholars were Arabs but they also refused to be under the umbrella of the Iranian-Safavid Wilayat al Faqih. On top of that, these scholars defended Najaf as the main reference for Shiism.

We are not against Arab Shiites or Alawites. We belong to the same culture. Yet, we have a problem with those who see Iran as a focus of allegiance at the expense of their homeland. The problem is with those who fight in the name of Iran to serve Iranian and Persian national interest or those who accept to be the Trojan horse for Iranian influence in the region.


NOTE BY THE EDITOR: Well, this is the view from the Saudi side. Many others might disagree. Allah knows best. We at the Muslim Times will try to present all the sides and then you – the reader – has to make up your own mind..

2 replies

  1. and Saudi Arabia’s financing of ‘madrassas’ all over the place is very counter-productive. I recall an orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand, financed from Saudi Arabia (a private foundation, not the Government). The students were taught only Arabic, Quran, Hadith. No Thai language, no mathematics. In fact they broke Thai laws which makes a normal primary school education compulsory for all. What kind of students come out of such a school? Even ‘good intentions’ carried out wrongly will have a wrong result.

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