Riyadh and Tehran Hold Security Talks Amid Rising Tensions

December 14, 2011  

Iran’s intelligence chief visited Riyadh for talks with Saudi Arabia’s top security officials on Monday amid continued tensions between the Persian Gulf rivals.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi met with Saudi Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the Saudi interior minister; Saudi intelligence director Prince Muqrin; and other top Saudi royals, Saudi Press Agency said yesterday.

Iranian and Saudi officials “reviewed a number of issues of common concern,” the Saudi news agency said.

Saudi leaders and their Gulf allies have publicly accused Iran of fomenting unrest in local Shiite communities and remain sharply critical of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Riyadh has indicated Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons may lead them to seek weapons as well, potentially sparking an arms race in the volatile Middle East region.

Iraqi officials have charged both Iran and Saudi Arabia of respectively backing warring Shiite and Sunni insurgencies in their country, which they say is being used as a proxy battle-ground by the two leading contenders for hegemony in the Gulf.

Riyadh and its Gulf allies have also sought to isolate the Alawite dominated government of embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a key player in Tehran’s regional axis of influence.

It is widely held Assad’s fall would benefit Saudi aspirations, which include expanding the Gulf Cooperation Council and converting the body into a unified pan-Arab diplomatic and military confederation.

Observers say the indictment of two members of Iran’s elite covert foreign operations Quds force by US officials who accuse Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington is more an indicator of a negative trend between the two countries than a seminal event.

But despite the mounting tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two countries still maintain contacts under a late 1990s’ security pact, Saudi political analyst Abdullah Al Shamri told Gulf News.

“I think there were indications from our side the last two months that the patience of Saudi Arabia might run out,” Al Shamri said.

Analysts, and Saudi Policy makers, contend the Iranian people may be the one’s to solve Riyadh’s imbroglio with Tehran for them.

“I really, sincerely hope Iranians listen to their wise people,” Saudi Arabia’s intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “They are really playing with fire.”

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