Chris Zambelis writes: The machinations surrounding Iran’s nuclear program continue to dominate international headlines. A closer look at the atmospherics in play indicates the presence of a web of competing narratives that seek to delineate the threats Iran allegedly poses to its neighbors and global security.
The boilerplate rhetoric out of Washington and US media regarding Iran is well known. But sorting through the cacophony of public threats of war, psychological operations, and propaganda broadcast by Israel and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s primary regional adversaries – is equally crucial toward understanding the geopolitics surrounding the Iranian nuclear question and, in a broader sense, Iran’s place in the region.
Alongside the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have taken the lead in articulating a litany of purported threats emanating from the Islamic Republic. On May 21, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the long-standing position held by Israel that views Iran as an existential threat: “Iran wants to destroy Israel and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal.”
Relying on a sectarian discourse, Saudi Arabia has also defined its fears of Iran in existential terms. A special series published by the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah just days before the Kingdom dispatched its security forces to Bahrain to suppress democratic opposition protests led largely by Bahrain’s oppressed Shi’ite majority reflects Riyadh’s deep-seated antipathy for the Iran. The inflammatory title of the series, “Safavid Iran’s plans for the destruction of the Gulf States”, is of particular importance. The reference to Iran’s Safavid legacy draws attention to the Persian Empire’s adoption of Shi’ite Islam as its official religion. By highlighting Iran’s Shi’ite character, Saudi Arabia is able to define the perceived threat from the republic in territorial as well as ideological and theological terms.
Paradoxically, Israel and Saudi Arabia are officially enemies. Yet they appear to be acting in lockstep – almost in a perfect symbiosis – when it comes to undermining and attacking Iran and painting it as a threat to regional and world peace. A sampling of the collective responses of both countries to matters related to Iran and other areas of mutual concern, such as the course of the uprisings in the Arab world, suggests that the Israeli-Saudi interface represents more than a temporary pact of convenience. Indeed, the convergence of their interests over Iran constitutes an unspoken strategic alliance that runs deeper than either side cares to admit. [Continue reading…]