Iran and Saudi Arabia have a long bitter rivalry that plays out on many fronts, and on Tuesday, it looks like the United States has been dragged into such feud.
A lot of people might not be aware of it, but the country Iran hated most next to the United States and Israel, is actually Saudi Arabia. The two countries have been locked in a Cold War for decades, especially since the 1979 Iranian revolution established a theocracy in Tehran that has openly challenged the legitimacy of the royal House of Saud. The rivalry has been fueled by sectarian tensions Iran has a predominantly Shiite Muslim population, while Saudi Arabia is mostly Sunni and also their respective ambitions to exercise political and economic influence throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world.
The two also engaged in proxy battles against each others. Iran media agencies dedicated their resources to magnify news inside Saudi Arabia that portray the country in extreme negative light, and the Saudi medias likewise, seek to extract and highlight news inside Iran that project the country as irrational. The result is that we get ludicrous news from Iran and Saudi Arabia almost on weekly basis across the world.
The animosity between both is highly publicized; according to French news agency Le Figaro, on June 5, 2010, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Herv Morin, the Defense Minister of France that: “There are two countries in the world that do not deserve to exist: Iran and Israel.” Iran senior cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi labelled the Saudis as ‘extremist Wahhabis who are the real cancerous tumor’ in Middle East. Wikileaks revealed that Saudi Arabia has been urging the US to ‘cut the head of that snake (Iran)’ - a phrase referring to military actions against Iran. During the Arab Spring, Iran has been constantly calling for the overthrowing of Saudi monarchy.
Irans ruling clerics see the Saudi royals as corrupt custodians of Islams holiest shrines, a pollution that must be cleansed. In turn, Saudi Arabia’s clerics are convinced that Iran is trying to spread corrupt ideologies and harbors unchecked ambitions to dominate Middle East, a force that must be wiped out.
After 32 years competing for their religious piety and who is the most holy of them all, the ‘hate-hate’ relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia opens a new chapter today, something which again made world headlines;
WASHINGTON D.C., OCTOBER 12 (REUTERS) - The US Justice Department on Tuesday foiled an Iran Qods force agents plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and possibly bomb the Saudi embassies in Washington, D.C., all unveiled in a bizarre scheme involving the Iranians hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas for $1.5 million to kill the ambassador.
Tensions have been high since March, when the Saudis sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to prop up the Sunni royal family there against Shiite demonstrators, and Iran verbal support for Shiite protestors in the Saudi oil-rich Eastern province of Qatif.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who announced the murder plot at a news conference in Washington, said it was directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds Force. He added that high-up officials in those agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot.
Investigators were initially skeptical about ties to Iran, they said, however, after monitoring calls and bank transfer, they found that money had indeed been wired from a Quds Force bank account to drug cartel group Los Zetas. In addition, the Iranian accused in the scheme, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, correctly identified a known Quds Force officer from a photo array, and his cousin, who he said recruited him for the plot, is another Quds official.
The Quds Force is a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard tasked with exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution ideologies and responsible for “external international operations” of the Revolutionary Guard.
Its so outside their normal track of activity, said a senior law enforcement official who had been involved in the investigation and would speak only on condition of anonymity. Either its a rogue plan or theyre using very different tactics. We just dont know.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her incredulity in an interview with The Associated Press.
The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador is so unexpected she said. “If succeeded the responsibilities would be linked to the cartel and nobody would had thought it was Iran.” Clinton added that the plot crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.
Rasool Nafisi, an Iranian-American scholar who studies the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said it may be surprising but Irans Islamic government has a long history of attempts to eliminate enemies living overseas, one example would be the murder of four Iranians in a Berlin restaurant in 1992. A German court found that the murders were approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.
Two Iranians Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri were charged in the plot with offences including conspiracy to murder a foreign official.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in competition throughout the Middle East, sponsoring rival groups in countries including Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.
“All across the region, there is almost always a group being backed by the Iranians and a group backed by the Saudis,” says Pollack from the Brookings Institution.
In response to the alleged plot, Pollack says, the Saudis may launch a covert action perhaps an assassination attempt of their own to signal to Iran “that you can’t do this with impunity.”
“We all know there’s a proxy war going on between the Saudis and Iranians already. If these allegations are true, that proxy war has reached U.S. soil.” he added.
At the news conference announcing the alleged plot, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said, “We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground.”
The two are quick to trade words of war, Saudi Arabia condemned Iran’s act as a ‘flagrant violation of international rules’ and that it exposed the true color of Iran, while Iran dismissed the allegation, claiming that it is a Zionist conspiracy to undermine Iran.
Iran to Saudi Arabia: we are watching (and plotting to bomb) you
The United Kingdom lined up alongside the US to support a probe into Tehran’s part in the plan. London said it will support measures to hold Iran accountable for its actions.
The State Department is warning Americans around the world of the potential for terrorist attacks against U.S. interests following the disruption of the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.