TEHRAN – A professor of global thought and comparative philosophies says he thinks it is “essential” for Iran to launch a “Ramadan diplomatic offensive” to lessen the effects of the blockade on Qatar by Saudi Arabia and some other Persian Gulf Arab states and to “signal to Qatar full humanitarian and diplomatic support”.
In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam says “rregional states need to learn that they can’t secure their national interests in exclusion of each other.”
Following is the text of the interview with Adib-Moghaddam, chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies:
Q: What are the real reasons behind the decision of some Arab states to cut ties with Qatar? What approach should Iran take in order to protect its national interests?
A: I see the crisis between the Persian Gulf states as a political farce, with major strategic implications for the region in general and Iran in particular. There have been repeated quarrels between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over Al-Jazeera, now one of the most successful news networks in the world (something that Press TV never managed to replicate). After the Arab Spring, Qatar and Saudi Arabia fell out over the support of Qatar to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the generous airtime that Al-Jazeera gave to the movements for democracy all over the Arab world. Obviously, Saudi Arabia has also been critical about Iran’s relations with Qatar, but the real question is why Qatar is singled out and not Oman which has even closer ties to Iran? One of the reasons is the competition of the two royal families.
“The people of the region have proved repeatedly that the new yardstick for politics is democracy, pluralism, human rights and social equality. Any state that does not adhere to those standards will be washed away by the currents of history.”Qatar is immensely successful. In repeated trips to the country, I have witnessed the success in terms of culture, education and business. Qatar acts like a huge contemporary beit al-hikmah for many Arab and regional intellectuals. It boasts a huge academic infrastructure which provides a deep, scholarly informed source of knowledge that Qataris can tap into. All of these features have allowed Qatar to considerably punch above its weight. The Saudis have none of these achievements and there is a good deal of envy about the influence that Qatar has on a global scale. Saudi Arabia acts like a jealous diva, that is left behind by history. In Yemen, in Syria, in Lebanon and in Iraq, Saudi Arabia is entirely marginal to mainstream politics. In Egypt the country is supporting a military autocracy that Egyptians rejected during the Arab Spring. The people of the region have proved repeatedly that the new yardstick for politics is democracy, pluralism, human rights and social equality. Any state that does not adhere to those standards will be washed away by the currents of history. I have discussed this in my “On the Arab revolts and the Iranian revolution” which was published by Bloomsbury a couple of years ago. The book sets out the mechanisms of power and resistance with reference to the recent events in the region.
Moreover, I just came back from giving a policy speech at the 2017 Doha Forum where I set out a vision for peace in the Persian Gulf. There was real concern and suspicion towards Iranian designs for the region, some of it mixed with paranoia, which, nonetheless, need to be addressed through diplomatic means. The Saudi decision to boycott Qatar was precipitated by the vote of confidence given to King Salman by Donald Trump whose administration is geopolitically incompetent, as I have mentioned several times in the global media. It is framed by a policy of bullying and a neo-imperial language that is meant to inflate the importance of Trump as an important global actor at a time when he may be impeached in the United States because of alleged Russian meddling in Trump’s favour during the election.
“In Yemen, in Syria, in Lebanon and in Iraq, Saudi Arabia is entirely marginal to mainstream politics.”I am in no doubt that history will judge him even worse than George W. Bush who has almost entirely vanished from the public eye for a reason. Trump is already seen as the most illiterate and damaging President in the history of the United States. Everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t usually use such explicit language when it comes to world events. But the fact is that the Trump administration is on the wrong side of history. The biggest irony in this farce is that the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” is spearheading a boycott of a fellow Muslim nation during Ramadan. This decision to boycott Qatar questions the ability of the Saudi royal family to act as a force for peace amongst Muslim nations which is linked to their sovereignty over Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia has the duty to forge closer Muslim relations. This is linked to their claim to manage the haj for the ummah.