History of volatile relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the game for becoming a major player

16 mins read
History of volatile relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran
Photo by PBS.org

In the world,195 countries have been succeeded to take part in the world map through freedom movement, war, mutual contract, and many other ways. These countries connected to each other for the fulfillment of its need and for the achievement of its goals and purposes. Every country is trying its best to become a country that has superiority in other countries. Some countries want to achieve this superiority through international organization and some want to achieve this superiority through make sustainable relations with powerful countries. Every country wants to become a major player in the region. Thinking of becoming the major player in the region is the main reason behind the tense relation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic relations with Iran were founded in 1929, after the signing of the Saudi-Iranian Friendship Treaty. In 1960, Shah Faisal initiated relations with Iran, the aim of further strengthening relations with the neighboring countries. In response, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi formally visited Saudi Arabia, which led to peaceful resolutions with Saudi Arabia. Later, the two countries sided with each other and raised their voices unanimously in the international forms on the issues that were being faced by the Muslim world. Mohammad Reza Shah commended Shah Faisal for his active role in the formation of the Islamic World Congress, the Muslim World League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In 1968, an agreement was signed by Saudi Arabia and Iran and the United Kingdom declared, it would relinquish the Persian Gulf in the late 1960s. Iran and Saudi Arabia took the primary responsibility for peace and security in the region. The shah sent a series of letters to King Faisal and through these letters urged the shah Faisal to modernize Saudi Arabia and said”please my brother, modernize. Make the school with co-education. Let the girl wear skirts. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee you will stay on your throne ” in response king Faisal sent a letter to the shah and wrote this letter”Your majesty, I appreciate your advice, May I remind you, you are not the shah of France .you are not in the Elysee. You are in Iran. Your population 90% Muslim. Please, Don,t forget that”

In the 1970s, relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were not without tension. The Shah began to modernize his army and began building Iranian security architecture in the region. In response, Saudi Arabia resisted Iran’s efforts and began to establish bilateral security relations with the smaller states of the Persian Gulf, which continue to this day.

In 1979, a revolution took place in Iran and this revolution changed Iran’s ideology. This Iranian revolution was led by Ayatollah Khamenei. After the revolution, Iran began openly attacking and criticizing the Saudi government’s role and religious legitimacy. However, King Khalid of Saudi Arabia sent a congratulatory message to Khamenei, stressing that we must build solid and lasting relations based on Islamic solidarity.

Iraq invaded Iran in the 1980s. Saudi Arabia had fully supported Iraq and provided 25 billion to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government. The aid becomes the cause of tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In addition, Saudi Arabia increased oil production to weaken Iran’s ability to finance its own campaigns. However, this measurement had hurt Saudi Arabia also.

During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran flew its warplanes over Saudi airspace and threatened Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with dire consequences if they did not stop helping Iraq. On May 7, 1984, Iranian warplanes entered Saudi airspace and targeted oil tankers. Following the brutal attack, Saudi Arabia launched air defenses in the region to intercept Iranian warplanes. In June 1984, two Iranian F-4 fighter jets tried to attack Saudi oil facilities, but the Saudi F-15 fighter jet shot down the F-4 fighter jet.

The 1987 Hajj incident has also strained Saudi-Iranian relations. 400 pilgrims lost their lives in the incident and most of the Iranian nationals lost their lives in the incident. In response to this incident, in Tehran, people ransacked in the Saudi embassy and also attacked several resident diplomats, one diplomat was injured and later died. Following the death, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran and banned Iranians from performing the Hajj.

After the Iraq-Iran war ended, relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran began to improve. In October 1988, King Fahd stopped all media campaigns against Iran, but Khamenei issued a fatwa against Indian author Salman Rushdie because he had given some anti-Islamic in his book. Following the fatwa, relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran soured again. Later on, spiritual leader Khamenei had announced the death sentence for Salman Rushdie. The Saudi government believed that the religious decree against Rushdie was an act aimed at gaining Muslim sympathy around the world. Saudi Arabia had decided to bring Rushdie before an Islamic tribunal and the Islamic tribunal should decide the sentence for Rushdie.

In 1991, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia resumed. In April 1991, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbari visited Saudi Arabia. During his visit, he vowed that in the future, Saudi Arabia and Iran will work together to achieve their mutual goals in the region. The Hajj issue was also resolved in 1991. Saudi officials allowed 115,000 Iranian pilgrims, more than the 45,000 quotas of 1988, which was abruptly boycotted by Iran.

The OIC summit was held in Iran in 1997. The meeting changed the attitude of the Arab states towards Iran. Saudi Arabia also attended the meeting. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (later King) and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal attended the meeting. Saudi participation was instrumental in further reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Later, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visited Saudi Arabia in February 1998. First Saudi Arabia by an Iranian president since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

In the 2000s, Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, who are politically active in Yemen, entered Saudi Arabia, killing two border guards and occupying Saudi territory. This incident also strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the incident, Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the incident. After the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, but Iranian President Mohammad Ahmadinejad said, “In the wake of the September 11 attacks, some Western states invaded the region. Al Qaeda’s main base was in another country in the region, which enjoys huge oil revenues and good relations with the United States and the West. There are some countries in the Middle East that do not hold a single election. Is not allowed to drive, but the US and European governments are supporting him”This statement severely damaged relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In April 2015, the Jeddah Airport incident occurred. In the incident, the media reported that two young Iranian pilgrims were harassed by Saudi police at Jeddah Airport. After that, 80 members of the Iranian parliament introduced a bill to suspend minor Hajj rituals until Saudi authorities guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims and stop harassing them. Hundreds of Iranians protested outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran in April over the alleged abuse of the two Iranian pilgrims and clashed with police after they tried to climb the embassy walls. The incident also widened the gap between Saudi-Iranian relations. In April, Iran suspended a minor Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia until the Saudi government “applied a tough stance” on the issue. Following Iran’s move, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal promised the Iranian ambassador that his government would soon punish the two Saudi policemen.

In May 2015, the Yemeni hacking group Yemen Cyber ​​Army launched a cyber attack on the websites of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign, Interior and Defense Ministries in order to gain a share of intelligence and top classified documents. According to the document, Saudi Arabia wanted to spread unrest in Iran with the help of opposition forces, social media, newspapers, magazines, and websites in order to pave the way for a change in the Iranian political system. The leaked documents were also listed on WikiLeaks. The documents have also severely deteriorated Saudi-Iranian relations.

The execution of Nimr al-Nimr also increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In January 2016, 47 people were killed in several cities, including the famous Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Protesters demonstrated in the Iranian capital, Tehran. On January 3, 2016, some protesters attacked the Saudi embassy. Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry had announced it would cut diplomatic ties with Iran over violence at its embassy.

On January 7, 2016, Iran’s foreign minister claimed that Saudi warplanes had deliberately targeted his embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, and claimed that several building guards had been injured in the bombing. But according to the Sanaa-affiliated press, the embassy was not harmed in any way. After Iran’s allegations, General Ahmed Asseri investigated the incident and later on, announced that neither the Arab coalition nor the legitimate Yemeni government had found any evidence to support the allegations.

On September 14, 2019, Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia. The attack immediately escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran and between the United States and Iran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of calling it an “extraordinary attack on the world’s energy supply and asserted that there was no evidence the attack came from Yemen”.After this statement, Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were severely strained.

In January 2020, a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport and killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the commander of the Quds Force. The United States, Canada, and Saudi Arabia had designated the Quds Force a terrorist organization. In May 2015, Yemeni hackers uncovered top Saudi government documents called “SaudiLeaks” that the Saudi intelligence agency was offering undisclosed aid to the United States for the killing of IRGC commanders. The assassination of General Qasim Soleimani had raised the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In the current scenario. Both countries under the shadow of world superpowers are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Iran with the help of Russia and China wants to become a major player in the middle east region, on the other side, Saudi Arabia with the back of the U.S.A is striving hard to becoming the major player in the middle east region. In Iran, the Shia sect has a majority population but on the other hand in Saudi Arabia Sunni sect has a majority population. The Sunni sect has no coincidence with some teaching of the Shia sect on the other hand Shia sect has not to agree upon some teachings of the Sunni sect. Therefore both countries want that their sect should spread in the region and Muslims of the world should live their life according to their sect’s teachings This is also an unforgettable issue between Saudi Arabia.

Due to the proxy war of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Thousands of Muslims had been assassinated in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. The economy of these countries has been devasted totally. Israel also wants to destabilize the middle east region by the superpower countries of the world so that greater Israel dream could be accomplished.U.S.A, Russia and other superpowers of the world are fully active in the middle east region and want to achieve its objectives in the middle east region through using Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In the present scenario and circumstances, Iran and Saudi Arabia should stop its proxy war in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Both countries should not divide on a sectarian basis. We should not forget the teachings of Islam in which Islam gives us the message for unity. Iran and Saudi Arabia should not be used by the hand of world superpowers and should focus on the welfare of its people and besides this, Saudi Arabia and Iran with the assistance of brotherhood Muslim countries should trying its best for the solving of current issues which are being faced by the Muslim world.

Muhammad Azam Nagra

Muhammad Azam Nagra is a columnist and social activist. He is also doing the Final year of LLB Hons from Punjab University, Lahore.

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