Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif said on Thursday that Iran would welcome Saudi Arabia’s change of policy with open arms, Press TV reported.
Zarif said Iran had always sought understanding with its neighbours and not in any way under tension.
“If the Saudi Government comes to the conclusion that it cannot provide its security through arms purchases and moves toward convergence in the region, it will definitely be met with Iran’s open arms,“ he said.
Earlier, the Iranian officials said that they had so far received messages from the Saudi officials for political solutions to their mutual problems.
However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said that there had always been a chance to solve these problems with Saudi Arabia through dialogue.
Saudi Arabia and Iran – two powerful neighbours – are locked in a fierce struggle for regional dominance.
The decades-old feud between them is exacerbated by religious differences.
They each follow one of the two main branches of Islam – Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.
This religious schism is reflected in the wider map of the Middle East, where other countries have Shia or Sunni majorities, some of whom look towards Iran or Saudi Arabia for support or guidance.
Historically Saudi Arabia, a monarchy and home to the birthplace of Islam, saw itself as the leader of the Muslim world.
However this was challenged in 1979 by the Islamic revolution in Iran which created a new type of state in the region – a kind of revolutionary theocracy – that had an explicit goal of exporting this model beyond its own borders.
In the past 15 years in particular, the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been sharpened by a series of events.
The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who had been a major Iranian adversary.
This removed a crucial military counter-weight to Iran. It opened the way for a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and Iranian influence in the country has been rising ever since.
Fast-forward to 2011 and uprisings across the Arab world caused political instability throughout the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia exploited these upheavals to expand their influence, notably in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, further heightening mutual suspicions.
Iran’s critics say it is intent on establishing itself or its proxies across the region, and achieving control of a land corridor stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean.
The strategic rivalry is heating up because Iran is in many ways winning the regional struggle.
In Syria, Iranian (and Russian) support for President Bashar al-Assad has enabled his forces to largely rout rebel group groups backed by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is trying desperately to contain rising Iranian influence while the militaristic adventurism of the kingdom’s young and impulsive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country’s de facto ruler – is exacerbating regional tensions.
He is waging a war against the rebel Houthi movement in neighbouring Yemen, in part to stem perceived Iranian influence there, but after four years this is proving a costly gamble.
Iran has denied accusations that it is smuggling weaponry to the Houthis, though successive reports from a panel of UN experts have demonstrated significant assistance for the Houthis from Tehran in terms of both technology and weaponry.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, Iran’s ally, Shia militia group Hezbollah, leads a politically powerful bloc and controls a huge, heavily armed fighting force.
Many observers believe the Saudis forced Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whom it backs, to resign in 2017 over Hezbollah’s involvement in regional conflicts.
He later returned to Lebanon and put the resignation on hold.
There are also external forces at play. Saudi Arabia has been emboldened by support from the Trump administration while Israel, which sees Iran as a mortal threat, is in a sense “backing” the Saudi effort to contain Iran. (Xinhua/NAN)