RIYADH and LONDON - The Saudi-Iranian relations are going through a period of high tension that culminated in Saudi Arabia’s refusal to receive Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as part of his Gulf tour.
Sources in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) confirmed the Saudi rejection. The Saudi move, they said, is due to the Iranian diplomatic and media campaign against the kingdom. The campaign comes against the backdrop of the Saudis’ support for the Bahraini government against what the Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini royal family which has been ruling the country for 300 years, called an Iranian coup plan.
According to the sources, the Saudis stressed that unless the Iranian government apologized for the vandalism done to its consulate in Mashhad and the attack on its embassy in Tehran, the visit of the Iranian minister could not be considered friendly, and that there would be no healthy foundations for the development of future relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The sources revealed that Salehi sought a Qatari mediation, but the Qataris affirmed that a continued direct contact between the two countries is better for the stability of the region.
Salehi said earlier that the development and improvement of his country's relations with Saudi Arabia would be the top priority on his agenda. However, the Saudi lukewarm reaction to these remarks has thwarted the Iranian minister’s potential visit to Saudi Arabia as part of his Gulf tour during which he visited Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Saudis are thought to be expressing their resentment at the Iranian interference in the region and the Gulf states’ internal affairs as represented in the discovery of an Iranian spy network in Kuwait and the Iranian media handling of the Bahrain demonstrations.
The Saudis are believed to be escalating the matter with the Iranian government. What makes the situation worse is the fact that these developments come at a time when Syria, which used to be a mediator between the two countries, is preoccupied with its domestic troubles. This makes it unable to mediate to ease the tension in the Gulf region.
Iranian leaders, however, have continued to make statements that are detrimental to the relations with the Gulf countries. The most recent was a statement by General Hassan Firouzabadi, the Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, who attacked the anti-Iran “front of Arab dictatorships” in the Gulf. He stressed that this region “has always been Iranian property”.
In a statement carried by several news agencies and Iranian newspapers, Firouzabadi said: "The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to prevent popular uprisings."