This comment was published in Arab News on o4/05/2011
Just days before Dec. 9, 1997, every Iranian government official’s heart was beating faster than normal including that of the newly elected President Mohammad Khatami.
It was a critical time as Iran was preparing to host the Eight Islamic Summit Conference. There was an urgent need for Saudi Arabia to be present. Without Saudi Arabia, the summit will fail.
The Iranian president was relieved. The success of the summit was guaranteed by an announcement from Riyadh that Crown Prince Abdullah would be attending the summit on behalf of King Fahd.
The summit was held between Dec. 9 to 11, 1997. The Iranians were jubilant that the summit was successful. Everyone in the summit knew that it was Riyadh that made the difference. President Khatami was a real reformist and wanted to brighten the image of Iran in the world arena. During his time he knew it was better for the Gulf region and the world to build bridges of trust with Iran.
Things changed on Aug. 3, 2005 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected the president.
This is an appeal from a humble Saudi citizen to President Ahmadinejad. I hope he would listen to this voice from the western shores of the Gulf.
I learned about Iran when I studied geography in my elementary school in Saudi Arabia. People said only the best things about Iran. It was the 1960s when Iran was a very respected country. Not only respected but advanced in technology, agriculture and medicine compared to other countries in the region. When I was 10 years old, I really dreamed of visiting Iran, because I was seeing only rich Saudi families go to Iran for tourism and believe it or not for world-class medical treatments. Iranian doctors were the best in the region. There was a daily flight (some 45 minutes) from Dhahran Airport to Shiraz, Iran. When these Saudis came back from Iran, they brought with them the best rugs in the world, the best pistachio and the best handmade plastic kitchenware. I will not mention Iranian caviar; I had no word for it at that time.
Mr. President, this is what a 10-year-old boy thought of Iran in the 1960s. So, no one is after Iran or no Saudi wants to see Iran hurt. Iran is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of history, heritage, manpower, raw materials and tourist attractions. Iran should concentrate on the good of its own people rather than recruit foreign hands to praise Iran in Lebanon, Iraq or Bahrain. Why spend money that Iranian people need? No country can fight the whole world. Iran and the Arab Gulf states are neighbors and have common interests. Conflicts are an obstacle on the path of progress. Iran should spend time and money to win back the thousands of intelligent Iranian men and women in California instead of making masses of enemies in the region. Iran should win back the Iranian businessmen and women living in London instead of hiring fighters in Lebanon. The most educated Iranians are outside Iran. Why Iranians enjoy threatening the Saudi Embassy in Tehran?
We understand Iran’s energy needs. We know that the Iranian oil production is facing difficulties because of the embargo on modern oil production technology. A lot of countries need clean and cheap nuclear energy, but there is no need to have your nuclear facilities as a threat to the region. Iran has to display to the outside world its industrial capabilities and not its military might. The Soviet Union was able to make nuclear bombs, but failed to make enough light bulbs to light up the streets. North Korea was able to build state-of-the art nuclear arsenal, but their people are starving to death. Iraq's Saddam spent billions of dollars to fight the world and you know the rest of the story. Iran is a great country that doesn't need an invisible enemy to survive. You can't teach your youths that America is the great Satan when their dream is to meet Seinfeld and Tom Cruise.
Mr. President, your people, not the Bahrainis, need your attention. The Gulf states are the most successful and prosperous in the region and your people are learning from these successes. Iranians are present in every Gulf country, and you, Mr. President, are hurting Iranians more than you are hurting the countries that host them. Wars never solved any problems. Haven't Iran learned anything from its eight-year war with Iraq? In this war, I lost Iranian classmates who I studied with in the US.
Mr. President, if we can't change the wind, then at least let us adjust the sails.
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is commodore (Retd.), Royal Saudi Navy. He can be contacted at: email@example.com