Saudi King, Ahmadinejad Talk Politics on Phone 12/10/2010

Mahmoud Ahmedinijad superimposed over an Iraqi flag

Abstract:  All relationships, including international relations swim in a fragile blend of “domestic” policy and “foreign” policy.

In the case of this conversation in question, Saudia and Iran are not quite “domestic” but from the perspective of US interests in the region, that conversation must be regarded as “talk among ourselves.”

The Values related reflections for this entry deal with the question if alliances among challenging dialogue partners should be seen as good or bad, AND how assumptions on this matter impact news media’s influence for positive progress in international relations.

AFP reports out of Riyadh

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah discussed regional affairs by telephone on Tuesday amid tensions over Iraqi and Lebanese politics and a Gulf arms buildup, the official SPA news agency said.

The leaders of the two rival powers “discussed bilateral relations and reviewed the overall situation in the region” in the rare call.

People familiar with the tectonics in the region know that entirely apart from issues related to the United States and Israel, there exists a substantial power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, not merely in the bilateral relations of these two countries, but as with all international relations in how these nations influence politics in subordinate spheres throughout the region. In this case, Iraqi politics, as well as influences in Lebanon and Gaza are dry tinder.

The conversation took place as the two sides appeared to be at odds over the formation of Iraq‘s government, stalemated seven months after parliamentary elections.

Saudis fear an Iranian-backed government of incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and have been supporters of former prime minister Iyad Allawi, whose political block outpaced Maliki’s in the March 7 election, but without enough seats to claim the premiership outright.

On Sunday, Allawi held talks with Abdullah on a visit to Riyadh. Details of their discussion were not revealed.

Saudis, whose predominantly Sunni Muslim country is frequently at odds with Shiite-dominated Iran, are also concerned about Tehran’s role in Lebanese and Palestinian politics.

Here is the question:  From the perspective of US and Israeli interests in the region, should the potential “coming closer” of Saudi Arabia and Iran through such “talks” and perhaps a wider pursuit of positive relations, be considered as a positive development, or a greater threat in the potential for global tension.

Ideologies that uphold positive assessment of harmony and unity should imagine that even an “enemy” dialogue partner who grows less fractured and more stable enhances the chance for the spread of harmony even in an expanded sphere.  This view is the opposite of “divide and conquer,” in that it assumes that if your dialogue partner is a fractured wreck, constructive talks and positive progress with such an entity is impossible.

Is unity (or the potential of unity) even among those with whom hostilities obtain a good thing?

2 comments to Saudi King, Ahmadinejad Talk Politics on Phone 12/10/2010

  • Mirek Karasek

    The question as presented in Mr.Kaufmann’s memo, and probably not fully appreciated by Dr. Anderson, is—from anybody who knows anything about the Middle East and particularly Saudi Arabia—nonsensical. First of all there is no, and never will be, any “….’coming closer’ of Saudi Arabia and Iran…” through any talks via the phone, fax, e-mail, let alone through tête-à-tête. The basic international political principle of Saudi Arabia has always been to find somebody to cut Iran to size; and the more the better. Iraq used to be quite welcoming agent (in the Iran-Iraq War) until Saddam invaded Kuwait and the King Fahd had to call Bush to take care of this “closer-to-home” danger; hence the Gulf WI. NOTE: In the process, Fahd had made the error of the millennium, when, instead of let Osama Binladin (who personally approached him, being his de facto nephew) to deal with Saddam ̶ with his “Taliban Army” (which he would be easily able to do) ̶ striped him of Saudi nationality, kicked him to Sudan, and in so doing made him the “enemy of civilization No.1.” Anyway, the Saudi policy vis-à-vis Iran is the same; actually, as Iran’s going full-fledge nuclear nowadays, a lot of frenzy has entered into it. Hence the answer to the Kaufman’s question. Mr. Kaufmann should also know that Palestinians occupy the lowest rung in the tribal assessment of the whole Middle East societies (in the whole Middle East and particularly in the KSA.) This, combined with another Arab proverb: “… the enemy of my enemy is my friend… ,” may be able, for all, to see the future quite differently.

  • Gordon Anderson

    The question as posed does not yield a simple answer. There are a number of issues involved:

    1. The appropriateness of the level of a government to issues being discussed. According to the basic political principle of subsidiarity, regional discussions should concern issues related to regional territory. So, regional waterways, highways, defense, air-pollution, etc. are appropriate points of discussion between two governments in a region. However, Saudi and Iranian interference in the state affairs of Iraq is unprincipled.

    2. The relationship between religion and culture in Iraq is problematic and exacerbates the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Iran because the Constitution is not neutral with respect to Islamic sects, let alone other religions. The union of religion and government is only appropriate for face-to-face levels of society, like kinship groups, and unprincipled when a group seeks to seize control of a state and impose its religious values and religious laws on citizens with different belief systems, especially when there is no proof that such beliefs cause harm to other citizens.

    3. Alliances often cause wars. This is how the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand turned into a global conflagration. In George Washington’s farewell address, he warned against the US entering into alliances because he knew such problems could escalate into unnecessary wars. Further, any technology, including nuclear bombs, may be used when a state feels its existence is threatened. Unipolar and bi-polar international systems are far less stable than multi-polar systems in which power is diversified. Global alliances tend to consolidate power into fewer blocks, causing greater global instability.

    4. Dialogue is valuable so that everyone knows the desires of others, but ultimately the principle of free association and disassociation should be honored to avoid war or violence, which is caused by one group oppressing another–militarily, economically, or culturally.

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