Iran and Saudi Arabia should take every step to de-escalate the tension between them, Iran's deputy foreign minister said on Monday. Tensions between the regional rivals escalated this month after Riyadh's execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric triggered an attack by Iranian protesters on its Tehran embassy, leading the kingdom to cut diplomatic ties. "We are prepared to consider any initiative which can help this region become more stable and of course safer, so we can combat the real challenge and the real threat in the region which is terrorism, extremism and of course sectarianism which is a big threat to all of us in the region," Abbas Araqchi told reporters at an aviation conference in Tehran. Araqchi added that it was important to fight "extremist terrorist elements" who are a threat to the whole world. "We have seen if you don't fight with them in Syria, for example, we have to fight with them in Paris and in other capitals ... we have to combat it and there is no way but to fight with these terrorist elements now in Syria, in Iraqi, in Yemen and in other places in the region, otherwise we should all pay for it."
However, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir yesterday signaled that Riyadh's policy towards Iran will not soften as he said that "Iran should change its policy and method of dealing with its neighbors on the principle of good neighborliness and refrain from interference in the internal affairs of other countries so that the path will be open to building better relations with its neighbors."
The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr early this month along with 46 others, including three other Shiite dissidents and dozens of al-Qaida members, has revealed the perilous tensions between Riyadh and Tehran – who are considered to be locked in a proxy war. Iran's harsh response to the execution, not only through officials statements but also with acts that include the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, along with the accusation that Saudi Arabia is suppressing the Shiite minority, revealed again that Iran has been following a sect-based expansionist policy towards the region with Tehran intervening directly in the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain with the claim of that it is the guardian of Shiites across the Islamic world.
The two countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia, respectively, have been holding the flag of sectarianism and using the centuries-old conflicts, narratives and Islamic interpretations as a cloak for their struggle for power. Tehran's involvement in the war in Syria and in the conflict in Iraq through alliance with Russia has diminished the stability and path to peace in the region. The so-called "Arab Spring" that started in Tunisia and euphorically swept across MENA has posed a threat to both countries since Iran, which was in support of the uprisings in the Gulf by Shiite minorities, especially in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, felt obliged to stop the moderate Western-backed opposition groups in Syria from overthrowing the Alawite minority's, an offshoot Shiite sect, decades-long rule and Saudi Arabia had to preserve its kingdom from both the Shiite minority and Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.