May 29, 2023

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Any country that bet on foreign powers is in ‘shock’ now: Lebanese researcher

TEHRAN – A high-ranking Hamas delegation visited Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2015. It was announced that the trip by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas political bureau chief, is to perform Umrah, but political observers believe that it is in the context of the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement and ongoing regional reconciliations, especially after the release of a number of Palestinian detainees held by the Saudi kingdom. 

Musa Abu Marzouk, former head of the Hamas political bureau, met Prince Turki al-Faisal in 1988 in Jeddah. However, the Saudi authorities’ arrest of Hamas representative Muhammad al-Khudari and 60 others under the pretext of collecting funds to support the resistance worsened relations between the two parties. 

Haniyeh’s travel to the kingdom also coincided with the visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad, after a decade, to Riyadh and also President Bashar Al-Assad’s reception of the Saudi Foreign Minister in Damascus. 

In fact, Hamas is a strategic regional player, particularly toward the issues pertaining Palestine. It is an integral part of the axis of resistance and has close relations with Iran. 

As for Riyadh, it has apparently realized that the Americans cannot be relied upon. This, of course, cannot be separated from the growing role of Iran, Russia and China. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is making every effort to mend its differences with neighboring states and regional powers. 

Unquestionably, this greatly frightens the Zionist enemy and makes it nervous. This was acknowledged by the Hebrew channel, Kan, that said, “The rapprochement with Damascus and Sana’a is a cause for concern.” These developments as a whole – provided that Riyadh adheres to its rationality – once again confirms the fall of the so-called “Abraham Accords”. It also means the victory of the resistance movement and the blood of martyrs, led by Hajj Qassem Soleimani. 

Meanwhile, social media activists and political analysts have widely mocked the visit of the notorious Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, to the temporary occupation entity. His father was loyal to the West and never took into account the interests of his people, in contrast to the Islamic republic, which has strengthened Iran’s role and capabilities after the Pahlavi family looted public funds and property.

To delve more into the connotations of the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, especially on Bahrain, Lebanese journalist – an expert on Bahraini affairs – has interviewed Lebanese political researcher Dr. Bilal Lakkis.

Following is the text of the interview:

First of all, would you like to put us in the atmosphere that paved the way for the Saudi-Iran rapprochement?

Well, the motives for this convergence are multiple; these vary in their significance and priorities. In examining these motives, it is necessary to examine which of the two parties – currently – is most in need of the other, but the most important thing is that there are two parties who have found that it is necessary to restore bilateral ties. First, there are intrinsic motives for both Iran & Saudi Arabia, and external motives (international and regional). What is meant by intrinsic motives is how each party recognizes the interest in this rapprochement. Secondly, with regard to external motives, and with regard to Iran in particular, I believe that – in the past years – there were internal political currents inside Iran whose main concern was bettering Iran’s relations with the West, in addition to the nuclear file. As for the era of the current president, Sayyed Ibrahim Raisi, the priority is rapprochement with the regional neighbors, specifically with the (Persian) Gulf states. For this reason, we have witnessed Tehran showing – in the past two years – its willingness to open up to the Saudi side, restore relations & dialogue it.

“The Saudi side has comprehended the need to move out from the stage of ‘reaction’ to the stage of ‘political maturity’.”What about the Saudi side?

For its turn, the Saudi side was not responsive at first. However, Mohammed bin Salman – especially after the experiments – made sure that his options have seriously failed in all areas. We remember very well that his speech was hostile to Iran, and that he was in favor of moving the war to Iran. MBS has realized that his foreign policy needed to be reformulated. Therefore, the mere occurrence of this transformation affirms MBS’s failures that requires crossing through one corridor and introducing a new political & diplomatic discourse, just as he has brought about so-called ‘reforms’ within the Saudi community – socially & culturally – in terms of breaking traditional norms. What I mean that he seeks to show himself as a “Man of Arab and Islamic consensus,” especially after his image was shaken due to the reckless policies.

Well, how the idea of China’s mediation in Iran-Saudi tensions surfaced?

MBS has realized that there was only one way to bring about this change, i.e. through the economic track. I believe that the fragile Saudi economy – which is based on oil – requires ensuring security in the region, and this cannot be achieved by relying on the Americans. Relying on the US means the continuation of tension with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and as a result, tension in the (Persian) Gulf region. So, the Saudi side has found it necessary to reconcile with Tehran and reduce tensions. From here came the option to seek help from the Chinese side, since China is a strategic power.

To what extent would this move impact other regional matters?

The Iranian side has been ready for this moment right from the beginning, and has repeatedly warned the Saudi side for its wrong approach. This openness of the Saudi side to its Iranian counterpart has categorically resulted in a truce with Yemen, reconciliation with Syria, and openness to the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey & Qatar. Nor is it necessary to mention that the Saudi side has comprehended the need to move out from the stage of “reaction” to the stage of “political maturity”. Indisputably, the Saudi side is closely observing the international changes. It has realized that its focus on conflicts is not in its interest, but rather in its interest to benefit from China’s economic growth that requires Saudi oil in the future. The Saudi side has found that it is in its interest to diversify its international relations and not to rely on the American side alone. What is meant is that the Saudis are trying to ensure maximum benefit from any climb of the Chinese / Russian / Iranian triple while in parallel maintaining its good relations with the American side. This principle is typically followed by “middle power” countries to preserve their balances and interests, meaning that it is in their interest not to take sides over the other in light of the rapid & unexpected developments.

“What made the Bahrainis distinguished has been their godly, faithful, striving, courageous, wise, patient and balanced leadership.”
Doesn’t it bother Washington or threaten the rule of MBS?

In my opinion, this approach does not bother the American side. Yes, Washington is annoyed by the Saudi-Chinese strategic rapprochement, but that is not a shift that amounts – according to Washington – to the power after he has fortified – during the past two years – the pillars of his rule and secured them. On the other hand, MBS has brought about a measured & tangible rapprochement with his fellow people – especially the youth category – in what is known today as “openness” and the decline of Wahhabist influence in the Saudi arena. Consequently, I believe that any American attempt to overthrow Mohammed bin Salman is not in its interest, because that would mean the fall of the entire Saudi entity. The Saudi side is good at its role & performs it rationally, and it will not take any step to provoke Washington, such as establishing security relations with the Chinese side. Yes, it may conduct arms purchase deals with China – but secretly and unannounced. The American considers that the decline in its hegemony in the region can only be compensated for by strengthening its security role. Apparently, the American side is not anxious of China’s economic presence because it chiefly relies on its security interests.

Currently, how is this trend reflected on regional issues?

This trend has undoubtedly reflected in the region, and it depends on the extent of its acceleration/deceleration. The mere announcement of the reopening of embassies has created a state of reassurance among the peoples of the region. On the other hand, this rapprochement has only disturbed some gamblers who bet on the Americans and the Israelis, including the Bahraini regime. In the Lebanese case, for example, many bet on the eradication of Hezbollah resistance by force, then they were shocked by the French efforts to dialogue with it, then by the Iranian-Saudi & Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, and the preparation of the climate for the election of Suleiman Franjieh as Lebanon’s President. Indeed, everyone who bet on the foreign powers and the West – in my opinion – is in “shock” right now. Most importantly, all the reasons for the alleged “Shiite-Sunni” concern have vanished. The intensity of the Arab-Iranian “turmoil” has mitigated into a commendable disturbance within the temporary occupation entity. Besides, the Palestinian resistance factions are growing stronger, thus obstructing the path of normalization. This path has also embarrassed the Bahraini regime, which took refuge in the occupation entity to protect its security from what it calls the “Iranian threat”, and has thus invalidated this claim. This convergence will undoubtedly be reflected in the foreseeable future.

What about Bahrain’s opposition?

The people of Bahrain have been known with their unprecedented steadfastness. Over the past decade, they have wisely dealt with remarkable patience with their righteous matters, and have shown that they are ready to persist no matter how dear the sacrifices are. We have noticed how the dispute with Qatar is gradually easing. Hence, the regime cannot continue on the same malicious approach in dealing with the appalling crisis, foremost of which is the file of prisoners of conscience. This shift with Qatar and the reception of the Iranian parliamentary delegation confirms the invalidity of the false narrative that “Iran is an enemy and a threat”. This is how would concessions occur. Bahrain’s popular uprising’s point of strength is the stability of its political discourse and the consistency of its demands. The reasons for this political maturity among the people of Bahrain are the sharpness and shrewdness of its clerics and political leaders. In parallel, since Feb. 2011, the axis of resistance has been very keen not to disturb the path of the movement, as it has not tried – at all – to exploit this movement or interfere in its affairs, because it well knows that if this happened, it would drag Bahrain – God forbid – into a fight no less bloody than what happened in Syria, especially since several parties sought to inflame sectarian hostility, practiced incitement, and employed hate speech. Iran and the leaders of the Axis of Resistance has left the reins to the Bahrainis themselves with regard to organizing their popular movement, formulating their approach, and choosing their diplomatic & political path. Rather, they have respected the opposition’s own strategy and its purely peaceful approach, and opposed some proposals for armed confrontation, and what that means in the Arabian Peninsula in terms of sectarian fighting and bloodshed.

“The pan-Arabism of Bahraini people is authentic and unique.”What role has Ayatollah Isa Qassim played in creating this reality?

In fact, the Bahraini opposition and its leaders have proven to be an exceptional example of patience and awareness – led by Ayatollah Qassim and Sheikh Ali Salman – and also in their commitment to the same vigorous rhetoric throughout the past decade. Their demands – yesterday, today, and in the future – are clear, well-known, and announced. The most prominent of which are the constitutional monarchy and the cessation of sectarian discrimination. This shrewd leadership is fully aware of the specificities of Bahrain, its circumstances, and the possible legitimate options for the uprising. The proposition of a “constitutional monarchy” – for example – reflects their alertness, self-confidence, maturity, and their full rejection of the abolitionist and exclusionary options. They have only asked for equal & effective participation in formulating political decision. Their resolve is defined in the hadith of Imam Ali (PBUH) that says: “In the fluctuation of conditions, knowledge is the jewels of men.” Despite the injustice and persecution that they are enduring, the Bahraini opposition has never raised abolitionist slogans but has been keen on demands that perpetuate coexistence and national unity. This experience is really a role model and deserves to be touched on & studied in universities.

How do you read the popular rejection of normalization?

Since 2011, but rather since 1948 until today, the Bahraini people have supported the Palestinian cause. Their position has not changed. The pan-Arabism of the people of Bahrain is authentic and unique, and their conversion to Islam reflects certainty, faith and sincerity. Pan-Arabism – for Bahrainis – means brotherhood, magnanimity, integrity and dignity. Only those who have lost their human sense and human dignity support normalization with the enemy of the peoples. What made the Bahrainis distinguished has been their godly, faithful, striving, courageous, wise, patient and balanced leadership. Esteemed Ayatollah Qassim alone is an exceptional leader who does not take a position out of futility or fear, but rather out of firm and firm conviction. This in itself is the factor that was lacking in the so-called “Arab Spring revolutions”, which were led by reckless personalities and agents of Western arrogance. Thus, I reiterate that this movement needs to be closely studied by research centers for being a role model. The people of Bahrain are a “believing [Muemen]” people with a principle that does not budge or weaken. With their patience and steadfastness, they are more like the dear Iranian people, whose consecutive generations – since the victory of the Islamic Revolution – have inherited & perpetuated the values of resistance and standing in solidarity with Palestine. The Bahrainis will not back down despite all the grievances. Fortunately, the Western arrogance does not understand the meaning of a “believing [Muemen]” people. The orientalists did not succeed in conveying to them the philosophy of this term, for to be a “Muemen” entails being committed to the Palestinian cause. This belief has a fundamental moral and doctrinal dimension within the Bahrain community. Further, the commitment of the people of Bahrain – Muslims and leftists – to the Palestinian cause is an essential part of their identity and their firm humanitarian principles.

What is your comment on the positions of the detained Al-Wefaq leader being reflected in the booklet titled “Palestine in the Eyes of Al-Wefaq’s SG”?

The positions presented in the introduction to the booklet of His Eminence Sheikh Ali Salman are the positions of the keen father and the wise leader. Of course, it is consistent with the speech of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim. For these two exemplary leaders, Palestine is an ideological priority that transcends political interests. Presumably, if the Bahraini regime severed its relationship with the temporary entity, they would immediately praise this step, and would not link it to their political interests. This strategy reflects their “Holistic Mentality” that is good at distinguishing between things, and this is what our nation needs in order to master the investment of opportunities and manage diversities consciously and wisely.

What is the responsibility of people in regional countries toward Palestine? 

Inevitably, supporting the Palestinian cause is a way to prove the legitimacy of those who support it, so the Bahraini regime’s move in the opposite direction is not in its interest. If the people of Bahrain were allowed to organize marches in solidarity with Palestine, it would show their unshakable sincerity, but it seems that the regime will never allow that so as not to embarrass itself. Thus, the responsibility of the regional peoples is to rally around this legitimate issue because it is a profitable investment.

Regarding the Yemeni issue, what is your comment on the course of events?

On Yemen, the existing truce appears to be continuing, and it appears that the blockade will be gradually lifted. I believe that after 8 years of war, the process of building confidence between the Saudi side and the Yemeni side would take some time. Undoubtedly, American and Israeli concerns still exist, especially with regard to the future of marine geography. A partial lifting of the blockade can be expected – for now – pending agreement on a comprehensive political solution. I believe that it is in the interest of the Saudi side – in particular – to activate the political settlement. There is no doubt that there is a Saudi-Emirati competition in the south, but this conflict does not harm Ansarullah, but rather the Saudis & the Emiratis. Besides, I do not think that the Saudis support the idea of partition in Yemen, as partition in Yemen means the first step to successive divisions in the Arabian Peninsula. Likewise, the Saudi side – in vain – is trying to present itself as a “sponsor” for the solution and power-sharing, just as it did after the civil war in Lebanon in Taif, but the Yemenis insist that the Saudis are an “opponent”. The Saudi interest is to reach a settlement that preserves the unity of Yemen and guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf region. Indeed, the Saudi side – today – is unable to continue the approach of war, even Washington as well. Likewise, the crisis-ridden occupation is unable to protect itself and cannot be relied upon. What Riyadh is doing – in order not to build unrealistic expectations – is a shift to “managing differences” and not a “formulating alliances” stage.

Your last comment please.

Imam Khomeini (R), after four decades, has proven his insight that the choice of resistance and confronting the Zionist enemy is the safest and surest path. The Saudi party is responsible for investing in opportunities. In this regard, I thank the son of the Shah for his miserable visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, which has once again exposed the bankruptcy of Iran’s enemies and conspirators against the Islamic Revolution. At the moment when the forces shake off the occupation entity, the son of the Shah appears to reveal his cheap vicious face as he is openly an agent of “Israel”. Indeed, the main reason that prompted the late Imam (R) to carry out his blessed revolution is because the Shah’s regime was an ally of the occupation.


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