World should be ‘worried about Iran-Saudi conflict’

Open confrontation between two rivals is a real possibility, a former adviser to Saudi royal family tells Al Jazeera.

protest against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding cleric execution
Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran after an attack on its embassy in Tehran following the execution of a Shia cleric [Al Jazeera]

The world should be worried about an open conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a former adviser to the Saudi Arabian royal family has told Al Jazeera.

“The hate, the anger, the killing … they have the ingredients for a major confrontation,” Jamal Khashoggi said in an interview with Al Jazeera’s flagship current affairs show UpFront.

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran after an attack on its embassy in Tehran last week following the kingdom’s execution of Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr, who was put to death along with 46 mostly Sunni Muslims convicted on terrorism charges.

Saudi, a predominantly Sunni kingdom, and Shia Iran have accused each other of backing proxies in the war in Yemen and Syria.

READ MORE: How much support will Saudi Arabia win against Iran?

Khashoggi, who served as media adviser to Prince Turki Al-Faisal, put the blame for escalating tensions squarely on Iran.

“It all happened because of a simple reason: Iranian expansionism,” the veteran journalist based in the oil-rich kingdom said.

“It was the straw that broke the back of a very strained, very bad relationship, and experiences we have had with the Iranians. It’s all about expansionism, not anything else,” he added.

‘No war’

Dismissing war as an option, a former Iranian diplomat, however, has told Al Jazeera that the issue between the two sides can be resolved through diplomacy.

“I don’t believe we should be worried. I don’t believe there will be a war,” Seyed Hossein Mousavian, the former head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told UpFront.

Saudi Arabia vs Iran: Beyond the Sunni-Shia narrative

Last week Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a British magazine that the kingdom would not go to war with Iran.

Salman, who is also the defence minister, told The Economist that an Iran-Saudi war would mean catastrophe for the Middle East.

Mousavian said that the rise of what he called terrorism was a major threat to peace, security and stability in the region.

He accused Saudi Arabia of “supporting terrorists”, adding that the Syrian crisis was the result of Saudi backing of opposition groups with money and weapons.

Tehran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has backed Damascus through the five years of civil war that has displaced nearly half of the population and killed more than 250,000 people.

Source: Al Jazeera