Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, went on CNN to address the growing tension between his nation and Saudi Arabia, which he described as “panicking” over reduced tensions between Iran and the Western world. During the interview, he slammed Saudi Arabia as the fountain from which terrorism flows, and lectured America for being “addicted” to sanctions.
Zarif insisted Iran does not want to “pick a fight with Saudi Arabia,” and suggested the two countries—effectively the kings on the great and bloody Sunni vs. Shiite chess board—could be “important players who accommodate each other, who can complement each other, in the region.”
The foreign minister promptly followed this talk of regional accommodation by accusing Western allies of giving the Saudis the idea they could “push Iran out of the equation in the region,” and lashing out at the Saudis for “exporting this Wahhabi ideology of extremism,” from which so much Islamist terrorism (ultimately including the Salafist ideology of ISIS) flows.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry picked Thursday to formally admit that some of Iran’s $150 billion sanctions windfall—which he said would work out to $55 billion net, after Iran pays its debts—will go to terrorist groups. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented,” said Kerry.
Kerry’s mumbling about America funding Iranian terrorism carries the subtext: Hey, at least it probably won’t be directed at us. Iran’s major goal at the moment is destabilizing regional adversaries, so it can put the old Persian Empire back together. At the moment, it is Sunni Wahhabist extremists loyal to ISIS, al-Qaeda, or other elements of their grisly confederation that are more likely to bomb your shopping mall or shoot up your Christmas party.
Iran is also at pains to prove it is no willing stooge of American policy, which is one reason they delight in defying or humiliating the Obama administration at every turn, from lopsided “prisoner swaps” and give-the-farm-away nuclear deals, to war crimes against American sailors.
They know what they can get away with, and they will be talking about their defeat of the Great Satan under Obama for a generation to come. With an oil shock hitting their Sunni Gulf State adversaries in the wallet, Iran has a real chance of fulfilling its hegemonic ambitions, while quietly persuading Western elites it’s for the best.