Rival U.S. Newspaper Op-Eds Pit Iran, Saudi Arabia Against Each Other

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/Sergey Guneev/Sputnik via AP

The foreign ministers of regional rivals Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have penned op-ed articles published by two major U.S. newspapers this month accusing one another of fomenting the radical Islamic extremism currently plaguing the Muslim world.

Their arguments seem to leave the Muslim world with two options, both of which have fueled jihadi attacks against the United States and some of its allies: Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Wahhabism and Shiite Iran’s “Khomeinism.”

Destroying both is not an option either country is willing to consider.

In an op-ed published by the New York Times (NYT) on Sept. 13, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s FM, accuses Saudi Arabia of exporting and promoting the radical extremist Sunni ideology known as Wahhabism to areas all across the world using its petrodollars.

Less than a week later, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in a Sept. 18 op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), responded by accusing the Shiite ideology behind Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution, “Khomeinism” of  “anti-Western hatred… sectarianism that has energized and empowered extremism.”

Jubeir argues that only by eradicating “Khomeinism” in Iran and everywhere it has expanded to — some experts argue that includes the United State’s backyard Latin America — can terrorism be defeated.

They both claim to welcome collaboration on fighting terrorism as long as they each drop their ideology.

Iran’s Zarif writes:

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State…

The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunni.

He blames Wahhabism for all the unrest in the Middle East, including the genocide of ethnoreligious groups such as Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites as well as being behind Islamic terrorism across the world.

In response, Saudi Arabia’s Jubeir accuses Iran of being a hypocrite by denouncing terrorism while it remains the “world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”

Jubeir writes:

The fact is that Iran is the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, with government officials directly responsible for numerous terrorist attacks since 1979…

Nor can one get around the fact that Iran uses terrorism to advance its aggressive policies. Iran cannot talk about fighting extremism while its leaders, Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard continue to fund, train, arm and facilitate acts of terrorism.

Moreover, he accuses Iran of providing sanctuary to high-ranking al-Qaeda members, including “Osama bin Laden’s son, Saad, and al Qaeda’s chief of operations, Saif al-Adel, along with numerous other operatives guilty of attacks against Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and other targets.”

Saudi Arabia has been accused of being involved in the 9/11 attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Meanwhile, Iran is accused of collaborating with Sunni groups and 9/11 conspirators al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, arguing that their hate towards the United States brings them together.

Jubeir notes that one of the “principal slogans” of Iran remains “Death to America!”

He adds:

Iran could also stop funding terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah… Iran could stop producing and distributing improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have killed or injured thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Iran could halt supplying weapons to terrorists and sectarian militias in the region who seek to replace legitimate governments with Iranian puppets…

Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic accuse each other of spreading their respective ideologies across the world.

The Saudi official argues:

[Following the 1979 revolution] Mullahs seized power and vowed—as written in their constitution—to export the revolution and spread their ideology through religious and sectarian conflict.

To export the revolution, Iran set up so-called Cultural Centers of the Revolutionary Guard in many countries, including Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Comoros Islands. The aim was to spread their ideology through propaganda and violence.

Iran’s FM points out:

Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc.