GCC and Arab League back Saudi in Iran dispute

Friday 15/01/2016
Arab foreign ministers attending emergency Arab League session in Cairo

LONDON - The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League threw their support behind Saudi Arabia in the diplomatic row with the Islamic Republic of Iran triggered by the execution of a radical Saudi Shia cleric and the subsequent attack on the king­dom’s embassy in Tehran.

After an emergency meeting Jan­uary 9th in Riyadh, foreign minis­ters of the six-member GCC backed Saudi Arabia and condemned what they called “Iranian blatant in­terventions in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al- Jubeir said the kingdom might take additional preventive measures “if Iran continues with its belligerent policies”.

“Iran has to make a decision whether it is a nation state or a revolution. If it’s a nation state, it should act like one,” Jubeir said after the GCC meeting, adding the concept of “sectarianism” was un­heard of in the region before the Iranian revolution.

The latest dispute between the two countries occurred after Saudi Arabia executed 47 men, includ­ing the radical Shia cleric Nimr al- Nimr, on terrorism-related charges. Iranian protesters soon thereafter attacked the Saudi embassy in Teh­ran and its consulate in Mashhad.

The day after the GCC foreign ministers met, the Arab League in Cairo said it backed Saudi Ara­bia in the dispute with Iran. In a statement following the meeting, Arab League foreign ministers condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran and ac­cused the Iranian government of failing to protect it. The statement also condemned the recent discov­ery of a terrorist cell in Bahrain af­filiated with Iran’s Islamic Revolu­tionary Guards Corps.

All Arab League members, ex­cept for Lebanon, whose foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, is affili­ated with Hezbollah, endorsed the final statement. The Iran-backed group has been designated a ter­rorist organisation by a number of countries and supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the war in Syria.

“The Arab world cannot tolerate acts that spark civil discord,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said. “Iran has shown will­ingness to foment unrest among Arab nations.”

“Iran has to decide what kind of neighbour it wants to be: a good neighbour or a chaotic neighbour and so far it behaves like the lat­ter,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said following the meeting in Cairo.

In its communiqué, the Arab League held Iran responsible for the attacks and called on Tehran to abide by international conven­tions and treaties that hold host countries responsible for protect­ing diplomatic missions.

The statement deplored Iran’s “hostile and provocative” state­ments against Saudi Arabia, calling it interference in the kingdom’s af­fairs, and also condemned con­tinued Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, stressing that such acts undermine security and stability in the region, are a violation of international law and are contrary to the principle of good neighbourliness.

The Arab League denounced Iran’s occupation of the UAE is­lands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa; and Tehran’s sup­port, training and financing of terrorist organisations; and its at­tempts to undermine security and stability in GCC countries.

There are fears that Saudi-Irani­an spat might disrupt peace talks regarding the war in Syria. How­ever, both Saudi Arabia and Iran reassured the United Nations that talks would not be affected.

Meanwhile, in its first move to defuse the crisis, Iran has held Tehran province Deputy Gover­nor Safar-Ali Baratlou responsible for not stopping the attack on the Saudi embassy.

“Based on primary investiga­tions the mistakes of Safar-Ali Baratlou, Tehran province’s dep­uty governor for security affairs, were proven and he was promptly replaced due to sensitivity of the case,” the Interior Ministry said in a January 11th statement.

Iran annually celebrates the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Teh­ran and refers to it as the “second revolution”. Since then, several embassies have been attacked over the years, notably those of Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Den­mark in 2006 and Britain in 2011.