Via Juan Cole/USG Open Source Center:
The USG Open Source Center has done a report on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for Iran and Saudi Arabia to cooperate in filling the regional power vacuum. The Saudis do not seem eager for such cooperation and in fact have incisively criticized Iran’s new role in the region.
Iran: Ahmadinezhad Calls for Saudi Support To Fill Regional ‘Power Vacuum’
Iran — OSC Report
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Over the last month, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has highlighted what he has said is the emergence of a “power vacuum” in the region, and indicated Iran’s readiness to fill that vacuum, while encouraging cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia to achieve that goal. At the same time, the Iranian Intelligence Minister visited Saudi Arabia to discuss “security” issues, delivering a written message from Ahmadinezhad to Saudi King Abdallah, calling for more regional cooperation to reduce Iraq’s “difficulties and bloody tensions.” Limited Saudi comment on Ahmadinezhad’s power vacuum remarks has been negative. Ahmadinezhad Points to Potential Regional ‘Power Vacuum’
Ahmadinezhad first raised the issue of a regional power vacuum in remarks to a Tehran press conference on 28 August.
In his opening statement at the press conference, Ahmadinezhad said: “I announce clearly that the political power of the occupiers is being demolished fast and we shall soon witness a big power vacuum in the region. We are prepared, with the help of our regional friends and neighbors, Saudi Arabia and others, to fill this vacuum in the interests of the region” (IRINN).
Replying to a question by the centrist-daily Financial Times at the conference, Ahmadinezhad said: “Why can’t the countries in the region cooperate? I have now announced readiness and let you know that the power vacuum is occurring” (IRINN, 28 August).
Although Iranian officials have stated previously that Iran and other regional countries can ensure regional security if US troops withdraw from Iraq, this was the first time Ahmadinezhad was observed to refer to an “occurring power vacuum” in the region.
A month later while visiting New York for the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinezhad again raised the issue of the need for regional cooperation to fulfill the emerging power vacuum.
In remarks to the National Press Club, the Iranian President addressed what he said were distortions of his remarks by “some media,” noting that he had “stressed that the Americans must leave and soon the region would face a power vacuum but Iran, Iraq, (Saudi) Arabia, and other regional countries would fill this power vacuum” (Iribnews website, 24 September). Ahmadinezhad’s Special Messenger Visits Saudi Arabia
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hoseyn Mohseni-Eje’i also visited Saudi Arabia on 10 September, delivering written message from Ahmadinezhad to King Abdallah and meeting with Saudi Interior and Intelligence ministers.
According to Iranian media, Eje’i, Iran’s Intelligence Minister and President’s Special Messenger, in addition to delivering the message to the Saudi King, referred to the security situation in Iraq and called for “more effective cooperation between the countries’ of the region” in order to reduce the “difficulties and bloody tensions in that country.” Eje’i also requested the continuation of Iranian and Saudi officials’ cooperation on important regional issues including Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine (IRNA 10 September).
On 11 September, the official Saudi press agency, SPA reported that Eje’i met with Saudi Interior Minister Nayif Bin-Abd-al-Aziz and discussed “security issues between the two countries.” Limited Saudi Official, Media Commentary Critical of Ahmadinezhad
Over the past month there has been limited Saudi reaction to Ahmadinezhad’s power vacuum remark, criticizing the Iranian President’s comments.
The London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat published a commentary entitled “Ahmadinezhad’s Grave Mistake, the Theory of Vacuum Filling.” The daily described Ahmadinezhad’s announcement as a “new Iranian position” which contained a “dangerous colonialist tune, because it grows and feeds on the sickness of sectarianism” (2 September).
More recently, Saudi Foreign Minister Sa’ud al-Faysal, in remarks to the press in New York, stated: “…We heard the words of President Ahmadinezhad that if there is a void, if America leaves Iraq, they are willing to fill the void,” and added: “Such talk is very dangerous and I think it’s an unwise statement to make” (Reuters, 26 September).
Irancove @ October 5, 2007