Iranian former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AFP)

By Track Persia

July 28, 2020

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a message to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, presenting ideas for an initiative to end the war in Yemen, Saudi media reported. He suggested in his letter that the Saudi Crown Prince take up “the formation of a committee that includes a number of internationally trusted personalities concerned with freedom and justice to hold talks with the two opposing parties (in Yemen) to end the crisis and bring peace and friendship,” according to Asharq Al Awsat. In his letter, Ahmadinejad

Addressing Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the former president who served from 2005 to 2013 said: “I am confident that your eminence will respond to the demands of the people of the region and the human community from you, with a good reflection on the results of this devastating war, you will do a work that you will be praised for and pleases God and His Messenger, may God bless him and his family and companions.” The former Iranian President also said in his message, of which a copy was sent to the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, that the conflict in Yemen “led to the intensification of competition and hostility, as well as the distance of countries of the region and their peoples from constructive cooperation… It is no secret to anyone that no matter how long this war goes on “You will bear no fruit other than the destruction and killing of innocent people on both sides, and there will be no victory over them. After all, everyone will lose.” He added, “I know that the status quo does not satisfy you and that what happens daily claiming lives of the innocent victims and destroying the infrastructure may disturb and sadden you… and therefore you welcome a just peace. I am fully confident that with your accompanying and constructive cooperation, we can implement effective initiatives that will play a fundamental role in limiting the aggravation of the status quo and ending the war and rivalry.”

New York Time has reported having received a copy of the letter from Ahmadinejad’s office to the Crown Prince.

The letter, however, has made many wonder why Iran’s former president offered to cooperate with the Saudi Kingdom to end the war there, although Iran is accused of providing financial and material backing to the Houthi militia, which is fighting against the UN-recognized government of Yemen led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. More recently Tehran has been accused by United Nations of sending weapons to Yemen and were used by the Houthis in attacks against oil facilities and Abha international airport in Saudi Arabia last year. So what can we make of this message? 

Ahmadinejad is currently holding a seat on Iran’s Expediency Council, an appointed body that supposedly has a supervisory role over the Iranian government. He has said he wants to stand as a candidate for president again. However, his nomination has been rejected by the Guardian Council, the body that vets all nominations, and his letter was not written on behalf of the Iranian government.  

The former president subscribes to heterodox movement belong to the fundamentalist Mahdism which is a reformed version of the Hojatiyya movement. The radical movement opposes Khomeini’s version of the Shii doctrine of wilayat al-faqih (the guardianship of a cleric) which is the based on the rule of clerics that have replaced the monarchy under the Shah with the success of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The subscribers of the Hajjatiyya movement reject clerics take high positions in government because in their belief this usurps the right of Imam Mahdi, (the Awaited Imam), the twelfth imam for the Shii Twelvers who believe he is in ghaybbah (occultation) and will reappear to rule the world in justice. For the Hojjatiyya subscribers, the wilayat al-faqih-based rule, therefore, will delay the appearance of Imam Mahdi.

The difference between two Shiite theological ideologies led to a covert dispute between the Ahmedinejad and Khamenei. This dispute deepened in Ahmadinejad’s second term in office and culminated with the eruption of the Syrian uprising. Ahmedinejad criticised Tehran’s support to Syria’s dictator Bashar Asad to safe his regime from collapse.

Moreover, Ahmadinejad’s positions on the judiciary and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards angered Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who refused to meet Ahmadinejad for three years. However, the former president, who is a supporter of the workforce, and the poor classes, has begun to bypass Khamenei on several issues concerning Iran’s foreign policy including policy on Yemen.

It appears that the importance of the Yemen file has become a driving factor for Ahmedinejad to present a new approach towards Iran’s foreign policy, this is reflected in his attempt to communicate with Saudi Arabia. An approach which is different from the approach of Iran’s conservatives and reformists towards Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region.

Additionally, the Ahmadinejad approach towards Saudi Arabia to mediate on the Yemeni file indicates that Ahmadinejad surely fully understands the importance of Yemen at present to Supreme Leader Khamenei. Therefore his initiative is read that he is trying to disturb Khamenei with the most important file which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard uses to harm Saudi Arabia.  

Ahmadinejad’s message to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the Yemini file is also an indication of the emergence of a new Iranian opposition against the regime’s policy towards Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region. It appears that his message to Saudi Crown Prince has angered Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard because in his letter he describes the Saudi crown prince as a man of peace, which contradicts the image usually presented by Iran’s state propaganda machines for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and his father king Muhammad bin Salman, especially when it concerns the Yemeni file.

Moreover, it appears that Ahmadinejad has realised that approaching Saudi Arabia to solve the Yemeni conflict in light of the declining economic situation and finance crisis in Iran will be in his favour, especially with the growing wide-country protest movements in Iran and widespread public anger over the regime’s policy for the region, including Yemen, which the hungry Iranians a key factor for depleting the wealth of their country.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.