Recently the White House has claimed that it uncovered a plot to kill the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US. The Americans must either be desperate to move attention away from their various domestic crises or somehow suddenly the Iranians have decided to outsource their work to amateur drug peddlers and money launderers. It is astonishing that a spook wired $100,000 when today even an illiterate illegal immigrant finds untraceable ways of remitting money home.
After the alleged assassination attempt, Obama, of all people, has been more pugnacious and asserted that Iran will “pay the price” for such behaviour. He went on to say that he would “not take any options off the table” and then talked about how even if the Iranian top brass did not know of the operational details of the plot, they would have to be held accountable. Of course this logic will probably never apply to the superiors of the American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who committed all those heinous acts.
Lately, there seems to have been a sudden spike in news related to Iran. The recent scare-mongering about the assassination plot has now been replaced with concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. In a recent press conference, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, went out of his way to emphasize that the plot was not an excuse to ratchet up the pressure on the nuclear issue but did say that Iran’s behaviour is not ‘consistent’ with a peaceful nuclear programme. One can only wonder as to whether the alleged assassination attempt could be construed as a part of this inconsistent behaviour.
Another ‘inconsistency’ that Iran is often blamed for is its apparent interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs. A Wall Street Journal opinion piece categorically asserted that Iran is meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs but was only able to offer hazy and extrapolated proofs. The article began by saying that Bahrain has not seen widespread protests since March but failed to mention how the Peninsula Shield Force had marched into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia and ‘cleaned up the streets.’ In a country that is jailing doctors and nurses for carrying out their sworn duty it is not surprising that there are no longer huge crowds at Pearl Roundabout in Manama. In fact Bahrainis are still protesting despite the brutal crackdown and now are waiting with baited breath for the findings of an investigation into human rights abuses. Meanwhile America has taken cognizance of the civil rights problems in Bahrain and has delayed a multi-million dollar arms deal in order to see the Human Rights report.
In another article the same newspaper said that the assassination attempt was a ‘sobering wake-up call’ for America’s ‘war on terror.’ Post 9/11, various countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, have been implicated in the ‘global terror nexus’ but interestingly it is often overlooked that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian.
Bloomberg recently revealed that a subsidiary company that belongs to the Koch Brothers has been doing business with the Iranians even as recently as a couple of years ago. The Koch Brothers are the famous billionaire siblings who have funded the Tea Party movement and have been vociferous in their opposition to Iran. However, this is not the first time that people ostensibly opposed to Iran have had financial dealings with the country. The Iran-Contra scam and Halliburton’s dealings with the Iranians under Dick Cheney’s chairmanship are just two examples of how realpolitik ultimately trumps any ideological posturing.
However, ideology does play a part today but perhaps not as far as the Americans are concerned. The Saudis and the Iranians have been vying for power in the Muslim world for many decades and there is an ideological rift between them that seems, at least for the time being, insurmountable. The ruling disposition in Saudi Arabia of some of the powerful members of the Saudi family and the Aal ash-Sheikh, or the real (and ideological) descendants of Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab have fundamental problems with the Iranian Shi’i government. Members of the ulama, or scholars, of both countries have routinely denounced each other over the years.
In fact interestingly, a deputy cleric of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Aamer Siddique might be thrown out of his position by Abdul Aziz, the chief cleric, just because Siddique deigned to visit Iran on an invitation from the Iranian government. Pakistani Special Forces killed the chief cleric’s brother Abdul Rasheed Ghazi in 2007 in the Red Mosque during Operation Silence. One of the reasons for this was that some of Ghazi’s students had been kidnapping people whom they deemed to be indulging in ‘un-Islamic’ behaviour.
In the aftermath of the alleged plot, US and Saudi intelligence have suddenly come up with ‘categorical poof’ that the Iranians were involved in the murder of Hassan Al-Qahtani, a Saudi diplomat stationed in Pakistan, earlier this year. A Washington Post article linked this so-called murder to a larger attempt by Iran to target Riyadh and also linked it to the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut.
In the past many Arab diplomats and leaders have hinted and often even bluntly stated that the biggest threat for them is Iran. One of the only issues on which the Israelis and Arabs agree is their shared dislike for the current Iranian dispensation. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, faces many domestic issues but it would be naïve of America to encourage this ‘cold war,’ using the pretext of ‘security,’ in a region that is already beset with so many problems.