On March 8, 2016, Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah that today, Iran is the No. 1 enemy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, supplanting the historical enemy Israel. Any citizen of the Gulf who disagrees with this assessment, he added, is a traitor.
Arguing that Iran is exploiting the Palestinian issue as a pretext for "infiltrating deep into the Arab world, shredding its Arab fabric, and dragging Arab society into supporting its expansionary plan," he emphasized that the Palestinians should expect no salvation from Iran. He also warned the Gulf Shi'ites that they were mere pawns for Iran, which was using them to promote Persian national aspirations.
Below are translated excerpts from Aal Al-Sheikh's column:
Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh (image: Kn19.com)
"The Persian enemy is Enemy No. 1, and the Zionist enemy is [only] Enemy No. 2. We must present this truth directly, flattering no one, to all those [who try] to extort us with the tale that Israel is the Arabs' Enemy No. 1 and that Iran supports us on the Palestinian issue. This tale could still be true vis-├á-vis the Arabs to the north [of the Arabian Peninsula], and in Egypt, because Israel threatens [Egypt] and its security and stability. But as for the [Saudi] kingdom and the Gulf states, it is Iran, not Israel, that tops the list of the enemies and the dangers that lie in wait for us, face us and threaten us. Iran is exploiting the issue of the Palestinians and the liberation [of Palestine] as a pretext for infiltrating deep into the Arab [world], shredding its Arab fabric, and dragging Arab [society] into supporting its expansionary plan.
"It is true that the Palestinian issue has throughout history been the No. 1 Arab cause, and liberating Jerusalem from the yoke of the Israeli occupation has doubtless been the No. 1 issue for us, with nothing more important. However, at this time, and in light of the Persian ambition that the extremist Muslim Iranian government is backing with all its resources and for which it is mobilizing all its forces and capabilities, the Persian enemy takes priority - and must take priority - over the Israeli danger.
"For example, when [former Iraqi president] Saddam [Hussein] invaded Kuwait, occupied its territory, expropriated its sovereignty, and annexed it to Iraq, Kuwait's Enemy No. 1, and the No. 1 enemy of the [rest of] our Gulf countries, was not Israel but Saddam's Iraq. Furthermore, I am not ashamed to say that anyone in the Gulf, particularly among the Kuwaitis, who prioritized liberating Palestine over liberating Kuwait from the claws of the Iraqi occupier was considered a clear traitor. The Lebanese need to realize this, as do the Egyptians and the Palestinians...
"I do not think that any reasonable Gulf resident would consider the danger [posed by] the Zionist enemy to be greater than [that posed by] the Persian enemy. The Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians, whose land is wholly or partially occupied by Israel, are expecting us - for whatever reasons and excuses - to be courteous towards them and to prioritize the Israeli danger over that posed by the Persian enemy. They are delusional.
"Moreover, let me say this bluntly: Any citizen of any of the five Gulf states who prioritizes the Israeli danger over that of the Persian enemy, whether from a pan-Arab or an Islamist perspective, is sacrificing his homeland, its security, its stability and perhaps its very existence for his neighbor's cause. By any national standard, this is absolute treason.
"This issue has to do with our very existence, and there is no bargaining over it or dismissing or neglecting it. It is a matter on which the Gulf residents, whether Sunni or Shi'ite, agree equally. I know that for a minority among the ordinary Gulf Shi'ites, sectarian affiliation is the most important factor, and they place it above national affiliation. To them I say: The Persians have no interest in sect or even in religion. What really interests them is utilizing [your] sectarian [affiliation] as a lure to mobilize you against your homeland, as a fifth column. Take, for example, the Arabs of the Ahwaz [district in Iran]. Although they are Twelver Shi'ites, they are oppressed and excluded [in their own homeland], and the Persians are eradicating their [Arab] identity and with it their human rights. The regions [of Iran] where they live are the least developed and have the highest rates of poverty and unemployment - [even though] they are [the country's] richest in natural resources. Were sect and faith important [to the Persians], they would not be fighting the [Ahwazi] identity and heritage and forcing [the Ahwazis] to assimilate into a Persian identity, and would not be stopping them from speaking their language [Arabic], the language of the Koran... The [Persians'] goal and purpose is to [advance] the Persian race's control [in the region] and to establish a Persian empire with Baghdad as its capital - as a Persian religious scholar said in a documented press release..."
 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), March 8, 2016.
 On recent Arab efforts to promote the cession of Ahwaz from Iran, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.1233,
 Possibly a reference to a March 2015 statement by Ali Younesi, advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rohani, in which he said that Iran is now again an empire and its capital is Iraq. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5991, Advisor To Iranian President Rohani: Iran Is An Empire, Iraq Is Our Capital; We Will Defend All The Peoples Of The Region; Iranian Islam Is Pure Islam - Devoid Of Arabism, Racism, Nationalism, March 9, 2015.