Riyadh Afraid of Reduced Tension between Iran, West: Zarif
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saudi Arabia is "panicking" over the potential for reduced tensions between Tehran and the West after the recent implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers (known as the JCPOA).
"We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia," Zarif told CNN in a TV interview on Wednesday.
"We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other, in the region," he added.
"Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that backed by their Western allies, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region," Zarif regretted.
He went on to say that the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Western nations, and the tension between those nations and Iran, provided a "smoke screen" that allowed Saudi Arabia to "export this Wahhabi ideology of extremism."
The Iranian foreign minister emphasized, as he did in an op-ed for The New York Times earlier this month, that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis, and blamed the Wahhabi ideology for much of the violent extremism now seen in the region and indeed in the West.
"We don't expect, or we're not interested even, in pushing Saudi Arabia out of this region, because Saudi Arabia is an important player in this region," he noted.
Zarif added that "We were always in the community of nations. Now their allies have recognized that Iran is a serious partner."
Tensions ran high between Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks mainly due to Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and a subsequent attack by outraged Iranian protesters on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which resulted in the Arab country’s decision to sever its ties with the Islamic Republic.
On January 2, Saudi Arabia announced that it has executed Sheikh Nimr, among dozens of others. The execution ignited widespread international condemnation, from both political and religious figures.
The next day, furious demonstrators in the Iranian cities of Tehran and Mashhad stormed Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic buildings in protest at the execution of Sheikh Nimr.
Although Iranian officials criticized the embassy attack and police arrested dozens involved, Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.