Islam: Beheadings, Decapitation, and Butchering
The horrible pictures of the atrocious ritual beheadings of ICS, the Islamic Caliphate State, on the Internet, have shown an ugly face of Western leaders, avoiding and denying what is crystal clear, as if these heinous acts are not Islamic, and continuing their march of folly as if Islam is a religion of peace and compassion; as if ICS and Qaeda are in fact not Islamic; and as if these and other Islamic terrorist organization hijacked Islam, in order to smear it and de-legitimized its presence in the West.
However, these denials are not only a mental blindness processes of run-away leaders, but also represent Western demise and submission to Islamic encroachment.
Let’s think. Do beheadings not represent the tenets of Islam, or perhaps beheadings are the most typical element characterizing Islam? Here is the short Islamic history record: The ritual beheading has a long precedent in Islamic theology and politics, as the cultural favorite form of execution. The practice of slitting the throats of the opponents meant to reassure rulers; to terrorize foes; to secure alliances; and to impress the masses of the power imposed by the ruler. Above all, it has been a cultural-religious-ideological trait.
To smite the neck was not only the order of the Qur’an, and the interpretation of the Islamic exegetes. This is also the interpretation the great Islamic theologians and historians, like al-Tabari and al-Zamakhshari. The most influential modern exegete who interprets and explains these passages of the Qur’an is Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi. He argues that under no circumstances should the Muslims start taking captives, but only after the enemy has been completely crushed. It is the task of the Islamic government to decide if it is necessary to kill prisoners, and he cites many historical examples of Muhammad ordering execution of prisoners.
Yusuf Ali, the acclaimed translator of the Qur’an interprets beheading as utilitarian: the neck is among the only areas not protected by armor, and mutilating an opponent’s hands prevents him from again wielding his sword or spear. In the famous battles of early Islam, Muhammad ordered to cut-off the heads of the enemy leaders and to put them on swords.
In the famous battles of early Islam, Muhammad ordered to cut-off the heads of the enemy leaders, and to put them on swords. Ibn Sa’d featured how the Muslims have dealt with Muhammad’s enemies: they cut off Muhammad’s enemy head and they cast his head before Muhammad, and he praised Allah on him being slain.
The well-known slaughter during Muhammad’s period was the beheadings of the Jewish Bani-Quraythah tribe after the battle of al-Khandaq. The Hadīth of Sahīh Muslim and Sahīh Bukhārī and the Sīrah of Ibn Ishaq clearly reveal that Muhammad ordered the execution by decapitation of 700 to 900 men of Bani Quraythah tribe at Medina for allegedly plotting against him. The men were lined up on huge dug up trenches and were brought out five or six at a time and beheaded. The women and children were taken as reward of booty to the Muslims. They were Islamized and traded off as Slaves.
In 680, the head of Hussein bin Ali was cut-off, put on a silver platter, and sent to Damascus. With him, the heads of all of Hussein’s 71 companions including a one-year-old baby boy were also chopped off.
During the Muslim occupation of Syria in 634, 4000 Christians were massacred; in Mesopotamia between 635 and 642, all Monasteries were destroyed and Monks were slain. In Egypt the Muslim conquerors slaughtered large groups of Christians, including women and children. Carthage was demolished and its people slain.
The Abbasids while taking control of the Islamic empire beheaded and massacred the Umayyads, their own brothers of religion, to the last person and baby.
From the 11th century, Muslim massacred large groups in India, quoting the Qur’an’s order to have slain the idolaters. In the year 1193, a Muslim general order to slaughter 50,000 Buddhists, declaring them as idolaters who had no right to live. In the Gujarati Sultanate of Western India, Sayyid Muhammad Jawnpuri (d. 1505) asserted that he was the Mahdi, and after accused of takfīr, he was beheaded with his followers.
Yusuf b. Tashfin (d. 1106) conquered Western Sahara and central Spain, and after the battle of Zallaqa in 1086, he had 24,000 corpses of the defeated Castilians beheaded, piled up and sent to all the major cities of North Africa and Spain as an example of Christian impotence. This became the rule where Christians were beheaded after any lost battle.
The Ottoman Empire was the decapitation state par excellence. Upon the Ottoman victory over Christian Serbs at the battle of Kosovo in 1389, the Muslim army beheaded the Serbian king and thousands of Christian prisoners. At the battle of Varna in 1444, the Ottomans beheaded King Ladislaus of Hungary. Upon the fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans sent the head of the dead Byzantine emperor on tour to major cities in the sultan’s domains. In 1456, the sultan allowed the grand mufti of the empire to personally decapitate King Stephen of Bosnia and his sons, even though they had surrendered and, seven decades later, the sultan ordered 2,000 Hungarian prisoners beheaded.
In the early nineteenth century, even the British were victim to the Ottoman scimitar. An 1807 British expedition to Egypt resulted in “a few hundred spiked British heads left rotting in the sun outside Rosetta. In 1842, the Afghans massacred 2000 British soldiers in Kabul, including their wives and children, by slitting their throats and hanging their heads on the walls of the city.
In Sudan, in 1880, Muhammad Ahmad declared himself Mahdi and led Jihad against the Ottoman Empire, by beheading his opponents, Christian and Muslim alike. The British governor, General Gordon, and his garrison had all been beheaded by the Mahdi. In Somalia, the rebel Mullah, had a large collection of Italian and British heads.
In recent history, beheadings in the name of Islam have become a show in front of world spectators on Arabic satellite stations and the internet.
In Afghanistan, in the 1980’s, 3000 Soviet soldiers were massacred and their heads cut-off by the Mujahideen. In 1986, the head of William Buckley, the CIA’s Beirut station chief was cut-off. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl’s decapitation in February 2002, catalyzed this cultural practice. The beheading of Nicholas Berg, Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley, and others from Korea, Bulgaria, Britain, Japan, including many Muslim Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, Algeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and in Chechnya. The Dutch beheading of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker, in Amsterdam in November 2004; the Egyptian Coptic family in New Jersey in January 2005; the slaughter of Rafsanjani in Paris.
Beheading has particular prominence in Saudi Arabia. In 2003 alone, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beheaded more than fifty people. Over the past two decades, the Saudis have decapitated at least 1,100 for alleged crimes. In Iran the average of the yearly beheadings is 25. That is what we know about.
To the ignorant Western public opinion, Islamists sell a twisted and false reality, as if “beheadings are not mentioned in the Qur’an at all” (Imam Muhammad Adham al-Sheikh, head of the mosque in Falls Church, Virginia); “there is absolutely no religious imperative for this” (Asma Afsaruddin, an associate professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame); “beheadings do not represent the tenets of Islam” (Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as well as the American Anti-Arab Discrimination Committee (ADC)).
Unfortunately, Western news media, academics and intelligentsia’s denial, out of political correctness, or their bias, or out of ignorance, has twisted the reality of Islamic history and propagated such lies. It is ordered literally in the Qur’an as a religious duty:
I shall fill the hearts of the infidels with terror. So smite them on their necks and every joint, and smite off all of their fingertips (Sûrat al-Anfāl, 8: 12).
When you clash with the unbelievers, smite their necks until you overpower them, and then bind the prisoners tightly… (Sûrat Muhammad, 47: 4).
To smite the neck is not only the order of the Qur’an and the interpretation of the Islamic exegetes, but they even put stress on the legitimate reasons to do so to the enemies of Islam, whether they are infidels, people of the book, or apostate Muslims. This is also the interpretation the great Islamic theologians and historians, like al-Tabari and al-Zamakhshari. The most influential modern exegete who interprets and explains these passages of the Qur’an is Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, who argued that under no circumstances should the Muslims start taking the enemy soldiers as captives, but only after the enemy has been completely crushed. It is the task of the Islamic government to decide if it is necessary to kill prisoners, and he cites many historical examples of Muhammad ordering execution of prisoners.
The siege and occupation of Constantinople (1453) is well known in its bloody savagery history by Ottoman Muslims. The Ottomans, Seljuk Turks, a tribe from Central Asia who appeared in the 11th century. The first blockade occurred between 1390 and 1402, which was failed. Then came the double siege of Constantinople, in 1411 and 1422, which were unsuccessful. But these failures strengthened the Ottomans’ will to occupy the city, as the model for the destruction of Christianity, with bloody results.
The occupation of Constantinople (İstanbul’un Fethi), the capital of the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire on 29 May 1453, witnessed the great massacre of Christians. It marked the end of the Roman Empire, which lasted for 1,400 years. The city became Istanbul, the new Capital of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, by Sultan Mehmed II.
After the occupation, Mehmet II allowed his troops to plunder the city for three days and spoils of war, like women and possession. The Ottomans made a great slaughter of Christians through the city. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, and 30,000 civilians were enslaved. The sea was full with huge piles of the Christians bodies floating around. Eyewitnesses described the horrors of massacres and rapes, without any resistance. They were intent on pillage and roamed through the town killing, raping, taking captives, and using all sorts of beheadings and decapitating. Rape was the most common. The frantic brutes stormed into the young girls and women, tore them, raped them at all sorts, and made them submit to the most terrible outrages. Tender children were brutally snatched from their mothers’ breasts and crushed to the stones. Temples, holy icons and books were desecrated, pillaged and set on fire. The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque.
The massacres in Greece and the Balkans. From 1453 with the fall of Constantinople until the revolution in 1821 Greece was under the cruel occupation of the Ottoman Turks who control the entire Middle East and the Balkans, to the gates of Vienna. Their rule was cruel, fanatic and barbaric, in which collective punishment of beheadings, rapes and kidnapping was on daily basis. Military attacks were part of the system, like the attack on the inhabitants of Chios, in April 1822, resulted in the deaths of twenty thousand civilians, and the forced deportation into slavery of almost all the surviving seventy thousand local inhabitants.
For almost three hundred years, beginning from the late 14th century, the Ottoman Empire used the Devshirme system (collection). Christian boys and girls between 7 and 18 but mainly between 7 and 10, from the Balkans, were kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam as slaves to serve the Ottoman government, mainly the military: the cavalry (Kapıkulu Süvari, the Cavalry of the Porte) and infantry (Yeni Çeri, the New Corp, transliterated as Janissary). The girls were taken as concubines and slaves.
The Devshirme was a ‘forcible removal’ of children of the Christian subjects from their ethnic, religious and cultural environment. It was cruel penalization imposed on the Balkan peoples since their ancestors resisted the Ottoman invasion. It was a periodic conscription of kidnapped tribute boys and girls from their families and communities to be molded into Ottoman praetorians owing their total allegiance and literally their life to the Sultans. From Islamic perspective, “The conquered are slaves of the conquerors, to whom their goods, their women, and their children belong as lawful possession”.
The Armenian Genocide (Medz Yeghern, “Great Crime”). The word “genocide” is the combination of the Greek prefix geno- (tribe or race) and caedere (to kill in Latin). It is defined as “a systematic organized and premeditated extermination of a people and a nation.” The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in 1948, defined genocide as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including by the means of killing members of the group.
The Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against its religious-Christian minority was the first modern mass murder in large scale. It was started on April 24, 1915 and ended with the estimate death toll of almost 1.5 million victims.
For the objective of executing the genocide, Special Forces (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa) were organized by the Turkish government. Like other mass-massacres during Islamic history, and followed by the ICS (Islamic Caliphate State) massacres and ethnic cleansing in Iraq and Syria, the Armenian Genocide has been an organized policy and it was legitimized by state laws.
The preamble to the genocide was the Hamidian Massacre. On 1 October 1895, 2,000 Armenians massacred in Istanbul, and very soon it engulfed the rest of the Armenian-populated provinces, with 100,000 and 300,000 victims. It was followed by Adana Massacre of April 1909, ended with a total of 30,000 victims.
Deportations. On 29 May 1915, the Central Committee of the Young Turks passed the Temporary Law of Deportation, and the mass slaughter of the Armenians ensued, and their property was confiscated. The systematic mass murder of the Armenians was “authorized and organized by the government,” in the face of the world. It was clear that the deportation order was genocidal. Theodore Roosevelt would later characterize it as “the greatest crime of the war.” World media reported it almost on a daily basis, and yet nobody did anything to stop it.
Death marches and systematic starvation. The Armenians were marched out to the Syrian town of Deir al-Zour. Hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees were forced to march to the Syrian Desert without food and drink, condemned to death.
Concentration camps. A network of 25 concentration camps situated in the region of Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria, was set up by the ottoman Government, as to dispose of the Armenians who had survived the deportations and massacres. They also used Mass burnings, drowning, poison and gas slaughtering, and Typhoid.
Like ICS today, the Turks decapitated the heads of many Armenians, mainly their political and intellectual elites and displayed them of central public places. They served as a model to the systematic policy of extermination.
Confiscation of property. Following Abandoned Properties Law, the Ottoman parliament passed the “Temporary Law of Expropriation and Confiscation”, on 13 September 1915 that all property, including land, livestock, and homes belonging to Armenians was to be confiscated by the authorities.
The Greek genocide was the systematic massacre of two million Christian Greeks, instigated by the Ottoman Empire, during the First World War and its aftermath (1914–22). This included massacres and extermination; forced deportations and death marches; and ethnic cleansing from their historic homeland in Anatolia. By the end of the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war, most of the Greeks of Asia Minor had either fled to Greece or had been exterminated. The remaining were transferred into Greece under the terms of the “1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.” The Ottoman government was accused of crimes against humanity, and the International Association of Genocide Scholars passed a resolution in 2007 recognizing the Ottoman Empire massacre against Christian minorities as genocide.
The genocide of Buddhists and Hindus. The Brutal Islamic Jihadi campaigns against the infidels have reached its peak concerning the genocide of Buddhists and Hindus. Though every country the Muslim Jihadi invaders conquered has a separate history of blood bath, plundering, rapes, and slavery, however, Buddhists and Hindus perhaps have taken the lion’s share. From the 8th to 18th century, the number of the butchered Buddhists and Hindus is between 80 and 90, these figures exceeds all the massacres carried out all over the world put together. The number of Hindu and Buddhist slaves and raped women kept as sex slaves is almost the same.
Just imagine, the two perhaps most horrible states concerning the treatment of women, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Buddhist before the Islamic occupation. Just imagine the horrors the Muslim invaders brought to the peoples: plundering, torturing, crucifying the males, while shouting the frantic cry, “Allahu Akbar,” and meanwhile raping the wives and daughters, to begin to understand how that is these countries has become Muslim.
Starting in 712, Muslim jihadi raiders, headed by Muhammad Bin Qasim, entered the port city of Dubal, near todays Karachi, plundered palaces and temples, killed vast number of men and carried off their women and children to slavery, after mass rape and torture. Hajjaj Bin Yousef, the governor of Iraq, wrote to him, quoting Surat Muhammad, 47:4: when you encounter the infidels, strike off their heads. This command of Allah must be obeyed and followed. You should not be fond of mercy. Able-bodied men are to be killed and their women and children are to be enslaved. This order was obeyed on the attack of the city of Brahminabad, when massacring over 10,000 men and enslaving their women and children, after mass-rape. The same process with huge butchering occurred in Afghanistan by Mahmud al-Ghazni in Afghanistan, starting in year 1000, and was the tide of plundering, butchering, mass-rape and slavery endorsed and executed over 800 years on the vast lands of Asia.
Perhaps the worst of all Muslim invaders was Timorlane. His invasion of Hindustan, Tuzk-i-Taimuri, records:
“In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels. The Muslims set fire to the houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort to the ground. All infidel Hindus were slain, their women and children and their property and goods became the spoil of the victors. One hundred thousand infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, a counselor and man of learning, who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives.”
The fate of the Hindu women captured alive by Muslims was worse than death. Even as their fathers, husbands and children lay killed they had to dance and sing before Muslims and after mass rape they would then be given in slavery to the Muslims.
One can conclude with the harsh situation of contemporary Christians in the Middle East. Among the so many anomalies of Obama Administration, like the refusal to label “Islamic” and “terrorism,” and to continue labelling Islam as a religion of peace, the most vicious is his refusal to call the persecution and annihilation of Christians in the Middle East as genocide. What is happening to religious minorities in the Middle East is not only prejudice and persecution, but systematic extermination.
One has to recall that the Middle East is the embodiment of Arab Islamic total imperialism and colonialism. The European, Soviet and American imperialism were here and gone. The Arab-Islamic imperialism has occupied the Middle East and perpetrated systematic policy of Arabization and Islamization in the entire region, by exterminating its genuine peoples.
Today the Christians have become an extinct species in the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities have been driven from their ancestral homes; have been slaughtered, butchered, crucified and beheaded; and have been raped and desecrated by the Muslims. However, this is also true to slaughtering of Muslims who do not behave according to the strict order of the Shari’ah, and they are labelled as infidels too. Iraqi Christians were about two million, now tens of thousands left. In Syria, out of 1.2 million, perhaps three hundred thousand left, living in deep intimidation and harsh conditions. Only in Egypt, due to the military regime of al-Sisi, the Christians’ condition is better, after they have passed through persecution, women kidnapping, and conversion to Islam during the short-lived period of Mursy Muslim Brotherhood’s regime.
These events occurred all along Islamic bloody history do tell us why Muslims today who strictly follow Islam want to carry out the same things of the Islamic past. It leaves no doubt that the events on our screens today, the beheadings, the barbarism, the bombs are a byproduct of an Islamic era that is being revived by the fanatic Muslims all over the world.
This Distant Damascus
For the last 12 years, the war in Syria has been raging on. March 15, 2011 is considered to be the starting date of the conflict. At that time, the Syrian Republic was overwhelmed by mass protests following the havoc brought by the Arab Spring. As a result, a political crisis escalated into violent clashes, bringing external forces into the mix. Turkey, in particular, has been supporting the Syrian opposition. Initially, it was also supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Despite the cessation of large-scale hostilities, we cannot say that the Syrian conflict is frozen. There are still some clashes in the country, including those involving foreign countries.
The Syrian government now controls approximately 65% of the territory. Most of the northeastern governorates of Raqqa, Al-Hasakah, and the northern parts of Deir ez-Zor are controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), consisting mainly of Kurdish militias. Part of Idlib is occupied by the radical Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham movement (outlawed in the Russian Federation). A number of areas in Aleppo, Raqqa, Al-Hasakah and Idlib are under the de facto protectorate of Ankara, which was established as a result of Turkish military operations: “Euphrates Shield”, “Olive Branch” and “Source of Peace”.
Syria is still a hotbed of terrorism. The posing extremist threat reached its peak in 2015, when ISIS (outlawed in the Russian Federation) seized numerous major cities. Although the organization’s main forces have been defeated, there are still sleeper cells in the Syrian desert. According to the UN, there are between 6,000 and 10,000 ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq, not counting the present representatives from other organizations. Additionally, there are thousands of terrorists in Syrian prisons (including those controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces), which are becoming breeding grounds for jihadist ideas.
Moreover, the risk of escalation between individual countries still remains. There is a U.S. military base, Al-Tanf, in the southeastern province of Homs, along the Iraq-Jordan-Syria border. Syria can also be described as a Russian stronghold in the Middle East. In 2015, Russia launched a military operation against ISIS after Damascus appealed to Moscow for help. The Russian Hemeimeem air base and the Russian Tartus naval base are both located in Syria. Iran also has significantly increased its presence in recent years. Turkey constantly warns about the possibility of launching another military operation in northern Syria against Kurdish militias.
With all things considered, the risk that tensions between Moscow and Washington may spillover into Syria remains high. However, the Syrian crisis may also demonstrate that Russia and the United States can find common ground even amid the difficult situation over Ukraine.
Another problem is Syria’s severe humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, 90% of Syrians live below the poverty line. In 2022, the international organization allocated only 47% of the amount needed to implement humanitarian programs. Fuel shortages and high food prices are only exacerbating the existing humanitarian problems. This situation is further compounded by even more serious economic difficulties. The conflict is encouraging the expanding informal economy to play a major role in Syria due to high levels of corruption. The country’s civilian infrastructure has not yet been restored, and the sanctions imposed on Damascus by the United States and the EU in particular are hampering economic recovery.
Until 2022, a number of Russian companies were reasonably worried about doing business in Syria because of the risk of Western sanctions. However, now that many of the concerned organizations have fallen under the same sanctions themselves, the importance of this factor has diminished and Russia can expand its presence in Syria. This would allow Syria, a key ally of Russia in the Middle East, to manage its difficulties better.
The war in Syria has shown that a military solution to the conflict is doomed to fail, and establishing political peace seems almost the only probable way to resolve the conflict. However, the unresolved Kurdish issue remains one of the main stumbling blocks to a real settlement. The northeastern parts of Syria controlled by the SDF are demanding greater political and economic autonomy.
No progress can be made without an agreement between the government in Damascus and the Syrian Kurds on the post-war settlement of the country. The government’s willingness to find a compromise that takes into account the interests of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria could help resolve the crisis. The experience of Iraq, where the Kurds have been granted fairly extensive autonomy, could serve as an example of a successful solution to a similar problem.
Russia could act as a mediator between the Syrian government and the Kurds. Also, Moscow can guarantee the implementation of political agreements between the Syrian government and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. However, much of this will depend on Damascus’ flexibility and the Syrian political system’s desire for reforms.
From our partner RIAC
Making Sense of Iran’s De-escalation with Saudi Arabia
On March 10, 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to resume diplomatic ties which had been severed for the last seven years triggered by the killing of a prominent Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by the latter. The agreement has been gaining special attention all over the world since two powers competing to gain strategic dominance in West Asia have agreed to come to terms, and even more so because of the agreement being brokered by a third country China which has gotten a step closer to deepening its presence in the region. However, this article intends to narrowly focus on the plausible reasons that led the Iranian regime to agree to reach this agreement.
Cementing Severed Diplomatic Ties
Following the visit of President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi to Beijing, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani visited Beijing on March 6, 2023, and had four days of intense discussions with his counterpart Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser Musaid Al Aiban to settle issues between their countries. This agreement, though as unusual an event it may be, is not very surprising after all. In his first speech after winning the elections, the incumbent President of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, stated that he is willing to restart diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and improve trade with neighbours under the policy of ‘Neighbourliness’.
However, it is not unusual in Iranian politics to say one something about its foreign policy approach without been meaning to do it. Moreover, the first round of talks started back in Hassan Rouhani’s term. Therefore, it would be unwise to give more credit than necessary to President Raisi’s policy of ‘Neighbourliness’. It is also important to notice that before Beijing came into the picture, Oman and Iraq were mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia and they had had five round of talks in Baghdad from 2021 to 2022 with no concrete result. The fast-changing regional dynamics and Iran’s internal situation have arguably played a key role in instrumentalising the agreement in March 2023.
Countering Regional Grouping
Given the fact that it is running proxy wars and supporting rebel groups in the region, Iran does not have many trusted allies in the region. There is an extent to which it can have sour relations with countries particularly in the neighbourhood since it may give rise to a regional grouping of countries against Iran. Post the signing of Abraham Accord, countries like Bahrain and UAE have already begun the process of normalising relations with Israel. Furthermore, backchannel talks have already been going between Saudi Arabia and Israel facilitated by the USA. Therefore, de-escalation with Saudi Arabia was in favour of Iran in the present especially because it would help undercut Israel’s efforts to isolate Iran in the region. In the light of these developments, Iran’s willingness to ease its years long rivalry with Saudi Arabia can also be seen as a policy of strategic hedging where Iran prepares for the worst by balancing Saudi Arabia by maintaining a strong military presence in the region but does not close itself from gaining whatever it can through constructive engagement.
Countering Internal Distress
Post the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in September 2022 in the custody of the Morality Police (Gasht-e Irshad), the anti-hijab protests raised some serious concerns for the regime. Although the protests have waned in recent weeks due to the brutal crackdown by the clerical regime, but even they have entirely died down. However, the protests that erupted were against the draconian hijab law but were not limited to it. They were also in response to rising inflation, high unemployment, corruption, lack of opportunities due to country’s isolation among others.
The anti-hijab protest draws inspiration from a series of protests which have marked the history of the clerical regime. Many Iranians, particularly the younger population, have been raising their voice against the use of country’s wealth to fund proxy wars in the region rather than using it for their own welfare. The slogan “Neither for Gaza nor for Lebanon; my soul is sacrificed for Iran” can be heard in every protest since the Green Movement of 2009. The ruling dispensation had not witnessed such a big protest since 2009. This may have brought to light the deep-seated unsatisfaction among the population which cannot go unaddressed for long. But to alleviate the economic hardships of its citizens, the government must have money in its disposal to fix the economy and to generate employment.
Saudi Arabia: A Potential Investor
Keeping in mind the sanctions put in place by the USA, the Iranian regime has been having a hard time getting investment into the country. If this agreement works out, the Iranians will be able to reduce their expenditure that they have been bearing for years for fighting proxy wars in the region. The Saudis are supporting the Yemeni government recognised by the United Nations whereas the Iranians are backing the Houthi rebels. By coming to an agreement with the Saudis about the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Iranians can save a lot of money and resources which can be diverted to strengthen their internal situation in the country. Moreover, Iran may also have a potential investor on their table.
Under the crown Prince Mohammad bin-Salman, the diversification project, revolving around the aspirational document ‘Vision 2030’ has gained a momentum in order to decrease their reliance on oil as a means of state revenue. Therefore, the Saudis are looking forward for different ventures to invest. Given the low wage labour cost due to US sanctions, Iran could be a favourable investing site for the Saudis. In light of recent discovery of large reserves of lithium in Iran, 10 percent of the world’s total, rapprochement with Saudi may help in securing foreign investment and technology since energy and infrastructure costs are high for Iran to do it on its own and due to sanctions, Iran is unlikely to get big investors other than China and Russia. However, trade and tanks seldom go together. For getting Saudi Arabia to invest in Iran, de-escalation had to happen before in Yemen.
Through this agreement, the Iranian regime aims to strengthen its regional security through engaging with a strong neighbour to prevent a regional grouping against itself. Moreover, the regime is also trying to win the confidence of its aggrieved citizens by showcasing itself as responsible and pragmatic. The official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that the agreement shows “determination of Iranian government to protect the interest of the Iranian people and Muslim, friendly and neighbouring countries” which was hailed by Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the government backed news channel in Iran. Some other conservative media outlets focused more on how this agreement signals the defeat of USA and Israel. As much as the Iranian regime may hail it in the media, one must be cautious while overestimating the outcomes of the agreement. Through supporting Houthis in Yemen, Iran has been able to build significant influence in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula and it looks uncertain if it would abandon it. The agreement may reduce tension in the region; however, it is unlikely to settle profound differences between them in the foreseeable future.
Iran-Saudi Deal: Prospects for the Region
Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months, according to both Iranian and Saudi state media. This marks a significant development as tensions between the two regional rivals had been high for years, with Riyadh breaking off ties with Tehran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran following the execution of a prominent Shia Muslim scholar. Despite supporting rival sides in several conflict zones across the Middle East, including in Yemen, where the Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran and Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government, both sides have recently sought to improve ties.
The joint statement from Saudi Arabia and Iran also said the two countries had agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, and to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001. The announcement came on the day President Xi Jinping clinched a third term as China’s president amid a host of challenges. The presence of Beijing’s most senior diplomat, Wang Yi, at the talks signalled China’s interest in bolstering stability and peace in the region, as well as its own legitimacy.
The agreement has been welcomed in Iran, where senior officials have praised it as a step towards reducing tensions and bolstering regional security. However, some conservative media outlets have focused on how the deal signals a “defeat” for the United States and Israel. The US has cautiously welcomed the move, saying that it supports any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region. Iraq and Oman, who had previously helped mediate the talks, greeted the rapprochement with optimism.
Improved relations between Tehran and Riyadh could have an effect on politics across the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon and Syria, where the two countries are on rival sides. This deal could lead to the creation of a better security situation in the region, and political analysts note that reducing tensions in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq can still entail wide-ranging interests for both sides. However, achieving success will require both countries to begin continuous and long-term efforts to try reliable ways that would guarantee mutual interests. While the development of re-establishing diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is considered a significant one for the region, it is important to note that ending the eight-year war in Yemen is still considered by some to be the most important eventual outcome of the agreement.
This will be a difficult goal to achieve, given the high level of distrust and the intensity of geopolitical rivalries, which may render the trend of reducing tensions reversible. Conservative economic dealings with Iran are expected from Saudi Arabia, as it does not want to be exposed to US sanctions, and normalisation does not necessarily mean that the two sides trust each other.
The resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia at both the national and international level is likely to have a significant impact. While it could reduce tensions and lead to improved cooperation in areas such as trade, security, and energy, there are still deep-seated issues that may not be easily resolved. Both countries have supported opposing sides in conflicts throughout the Middle East, and there are religious and geopolitical tensions at play.
Furthermore, the resumption of diplomatic relations may be viewed differently by different segments of society in both countries. At the international level, the agreement could potentially reduce tensions, contribute to stability and peace, and increase China’s influence in the region. It may also have implications for other countries with interests in the Middle East, including the United States and Russia. Ultimately, the impact of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will depend on the actions of both countries going forward and whether they can work towards lasting peace and stability in the region. There is another issue which is vital for the Middle East.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Iran and met with high-level officials to discuss enhanced cooperation and resolution of outstanding safeguards issues. Both parties agreed to collaborate, address issues related to three locations, and allow for voluntary verification and monitoring activities. Modalities for these activities will be agreed upon in a technical meeting in Tehran, and positive engagements could lead to wider agreements among state parties. This agreement can further help in reducing the tension on the Iran nuclear deal. In conclusion, it is a good deal which can have a long lasting impact on the peace security in the Middle East.
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