Iran must deliver

A handout picture released by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 2, 2014 shows him (R) meeting with Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (C) in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) in Tehran. (AFP PHOTO/HO/IRANIAN LEADER'S WEBSITE)

The visit of Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to Tehran is definitely a step in the right direction as far as Iranian-Gulf ties go.

But as long as Iran insists on its narrow interpretation of the root causes of problems in the wider region, any tangible rapprochement will remain some way off.

Until Tehran begins dialogue with Saudi Arabia, which has recently shown its openness to such a prospect with several invitations extended to Iranian figures, these other visits are but baby steps.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned neighbors Monday of the “high price” they would pay for continuing to support Sunni extremists in Syria.

This warning lacks any semblance of context, for while the threat posed by certain elements fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is real, it does not exist in a vacuum.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Iran has been Damascus’ main supporter, propping it up with financial and logistical support directly and through Hezbollah.

Taking a wider view, Iran continues to meddle in the internal affairs of Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. Iran’s accusations against Sunni states are a case of those in glass houses throwing stones.

The threat posed by extremists is real, and it poses the greatest threat to the countries from which the fighters themselves emerge, whether Egypt or the Gulf. And these governments are working as hard as possible to confront these militants as the terrorists they are.

Any genuine easing of ties between Iran and the Gulf might perhaps be better served not by the slinging of accusations, but by working together to minimize the threats posed by extremists from both sides of the divide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 03, 2014, on page 7.




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