It’s not quite the Great Satan — at least, not yet. But it’s an enemy that the Iranian regime and the people can unite against
Now that Iran’s Islamic government is close to a nuclear deal with the US and other world powers, the traditional “death to America” slogan is losing its lustre but the loathing of Saudi Arabia is gaining appeal.
Though this is happening by accident more than design, driven by a stand-off in Yemen between Iranian and Saudi proxies, it is blissfully convenient for Iran’s rulers.
Iranians never learnt to hate America despite their leaders’ best efforts to whip up resentment. It certainly won’t grow easier to convince them of devious American plots if a nuclear accord is signed.
When it comes to Saudi Arabia, however, Shia Iranians are happy to bash their Sunni neighbour. Persian-Arab enmity goes back centuries; Iranian-American hostility is only a few decades old. “People in Iran love Americans, and Saudi Arabia is the one country that everyone hates,” one political analyst tells me. “If it’s not the Great Satan it’s only because it’s not that important.”
Indeed, in my own meetings in Iran, there are sometimes awkward moments: someone casually drops a disparaging remark about Arabs then realises I come from Lebanon and reassures me Iranians love the Lebanese but less so Gulf countries. In Lebanon, of course, Iran has Hizbollah, its most prized proxy.
I heard Saudi leaders denounced as “immature children” who bomb fellow Muslims in Yemen and join hands with jihadi terrorists in Syria and Iraq. It’s impossible to convince anyone that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which threatens the Saudi regime possibly even more than it threatens Iran, is not a Saudi creation. The notion that Saudi Arabia should reject an Iranian role in the affairs of other Arab states also meets with incredulity. A common language (Arabic) doesn’t give one country the right to claim authority over another, say Iranian officials.
Here is the FT article.
Thanks to technology, the USA no longer has the same vital interests in the Middle East, although it would understandably like to prevent the region’s wars and terrorism from spreading westward. If ongoing Sunni-Shia conflicts threaten the Middle East’s oil production, the USA can quickly ramp up its shale oil output, avoiding a repeat of recessions caused by earlier energy crises.
Many other countries could do the same. If they follow the USA’s energy policies, from shale oil and gas to solar-led renewables, in 20 to 30 years time the Middle will have the luxury of consuming all of its own oil and gas.Back to top