US embassy cable - 87RIYADH8409

WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN RIYADH AND TEHRAN

Identifier: 87RIYADH8409
Wikileaks: View 87RIYADH8409 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Riyadh
Created: 1987-08-26 12:46:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL SA IR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 261246Z AUG 87
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5740
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
AMCONSUL DHAHRAN
AMCONSUL JEDDAH
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 08409 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, SA, IR 
SUBJECT:  WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN RIYADH AND TEHRAN 
 
REF:  (A)FBIS LD211453 AUG 87 AND FF. (11 SECTIONS) 
-     (B)FBIS LD211046 AUG 87 AND FF. 
-     (C)FBIS LD221904 AUG 87 AND FF. 
-     (D)FBIS NC200643 AUG 87 
-     (E)FBIS LD221557 AUG 87 
 
1.  (C - ENTIRE TEXT). 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  THE WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN TEHRAN AND RIYADH 
CONTINUES AT A HIGH PITCH.  FOR THE IRANIANS, THE SAUDIS 
ARE SERVANTS AND INSTRUMENTS FOR "WORLD ARROGANCE" OR 
THE "GREAT SATAN" (I.E. THE U.S.) WHO HAVE PERPETRATED A 
"DIRTY, UGLY, ODIOUS AND MONSTROUS ACT" IN MECCA AND WHO 
WITH THE KUWAITIS PLOTTED TO BRING THE FORCES OF THEIR 
U.S. MASTERS INTO THE GULF.  FAHD AND THE AL SAUD ARE 
CONDEMNED AS LIARS, OPPRESSORS AND CORRUPT RULERS, 
UNWORTHY OF CONTROLLING ISLAM'S HOLIEST SITES.  THESE 
CHARGES ARE IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE OFFENSIVE TO THE 
SAUDIS.  THEY HAVE RESPONDED VIGOROUSLY, AT HOME AND 
ABROAD.  THE SAUDIS TAKE TWO LINES IN REGARD TO THE 
IRANIANS:  A RELIGIOUS APPROACH ARGUING THAT THE 
IRANIANS ARE GUILTY OF "USING ISLAM TO SERVE POLITICS" 
AND THAT IRANIAN METHODS AND BEHAVIOR DIRECTLY 
CONTRAVENE ISLAMIC LAW;  AND A POLITICAL APPROACH THAT 
DEPICTS THE IRANIANS AS FANATICS, COMPULSIVE LIARS, AND 
PROVOCATEURS WHO SYSTEMATICALLY SHOW CONTEMPT FOR 
INTERNATIONAL RULES AND FOR ATTEMPTS TO DEAL CIVILLY 
WITH THEM.  IMAGES EMPHASIZED BY THE SAUDIS INCLUDE THE 
RIOTS AT MAKKAH (WITH IRANIAN ATTEMPTS TO SMUGGLE 
EXPLOSIVES IN 1986), THE ATTACKS ON EMBASSIES, AND NOW 
THE INHUMAN TREATMENT RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF SAUDI 
DIPLOMAT AL-GHAMDI.  SAUDI OFFICIAL AND PRESS TREATMENT 
DIFFER ONLY IN TONE:  OFFICIALS TEND TO PLAY THESE 
THEMES MORE IN SORROW THAN IN ANGER.  THE SAUDIS MAY 
TIRE OF THIS UNACCUSTOMED LEVEL OF RHETORIC, BUT NOT 
UNLESS THE IRANIANS BACK OFF.  THE SAUDIS SEE THEIR 
POSITION AS STRONG DIPLOMATICALLY, PROPAGANDISTICALLY, 
AND RELIGIOUSLY, INCLUDING IN THE AREA OF POSSIBLE 
RESTRICTIONS ON THE IRANIANS FOR NEXT YEAR'S HAJJ.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
3.  THE WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN RIYADH AND TEHRAN, WHICH 
BEGAN IN EARNEST AFTER THE MAKKAH VIOLENCE OF JULY 31, 
CONTINUES TO DOMINATE THE SAUDI PRESS, ANSWERING THE 
VIRULENT RHETORIC ISSUING FROM TEHRAN.  THE IRANIANS 
CALL FOR THE OVERTHROW OF THE SAG AND ACCUSE THE SAG 
DAILY OF MASSACRING HUNDREDS OF MUSLIMS IN MAKKAH AND OF 
VARIOUS OTHER RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL "CRIMES".  IRANIAN 
MAJLIS SPEAKER RAFSANJANI'S FRIDAY SERMON OF AUGUST 21 
(REF A) PROVIDES A COMPENDIUM OF IRAN'S PROPAGANDA 
THEMES, CONSTANTLY REECHOED IN PRINT AND ELECTRONIC 
MEDIA.  TAKING AS HIS CENTRAL THEME "ARROGANCE VS. 
MEEKNESS," RAFSANJANI DISCUSSES FIRST THE WAR AND SECOND 
THE "EXISTING SITUATION IN THE REGION."  HE ESTABLISHES 
AS HIS FRAMEWORK THE PROPOSITION THAT "WORLD 
ARROGANCE"--THE U.S., PORTRAYED AS THE "MASTERS AND 
SUPPORTERS OF IRAQ AND OTHER PUPPETS--HAS BEEN FORCED BY 
THE PROSPECT OF AN IMMINENT IRANIAN VICTORY TO ABANDON 
ITS PRETENSE OF NEUTRALITY AND COME OUT IN THE OPEN IN 
THE REGION. 
 
4.  AFTER AN EXTENSIVE DISCUSSION IN KORANIC TERMS OF 
THE NATURE OF ARROGANCE AND U.S. ORCHESTRATION OF THE 
WAR AND OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE REGION AND THE 
INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF THE U.S. AND ITS DESIGNS, 
RAFSANJANI MOVES ON TO DISCUSS SAUDI ARABIA.  ADDRESSING 
THE U.S., HE SAYS "YOU HAVE HAD TO FORCE SAUDI ARABIA TO 
COMMIT SUICIDE IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY ACHIEVE YOUR ENDS. 
THE HOUSE OF SAUD WAS MUCH TOO WISE TO SOIL ITS HANDS IN 
A CRIME WHICH ACCORDING TO THE IMAM'S SAYING CAN NEVER 
BE CLEANSED WITH WATER OF ZAMZAM UNTIL ETERNITY.  EVEN 
IF MR. FAHD BATHS IN THE WELL OF ZAMZAM, NOBODY COULD 
BELIEVE THAT THE (STAIN) COULD BE ERADICATED."  IN 
CONTEXT, THIS ATTACK APPEARS TO REFER BOTH TO THE SAUDI 
ROLE IN SUPPORTING THE U.S. PRESENCE IN THE GULF AND TO 
THE "MASSACRE" IN MECCA, AND RAFSANJANI GOES ON TO 
DENOUNCE AT LENGTH THE U.S. PRESENCE AND TO PREDICT ITS 
CERTAIN FAILURE. 
 
5.  FINALLY, RAFSANJANI TAKES UP THE "BITTER EVENT" IN 
MAKKAH, DECLARING THAT "THIS WAS SUCH A DIRTY, UGLY, 
ODIOUS AND MONSTROUS ACT THAT WE DO NOT THINK THAT ANY 
OTHER SINISTER ELEMENT SAVE THE GREAT SATAN WOULD BE 
PREPARED TO SOIL ITS HANDS IN THIS...."  HE CLAIMS THAT 
THROUGHOUT THE ISLAMIC WORLD MUSLIMS ARE PROTESTING: 
"HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE ARE NOW ANGRY.... 
THEY (THE SAUDIS) HAVE NOW SENSED THIS; THEY SUDDENLY 
INSTRUCTED THAT 100 OF THOSE PRINCES..INDULGING 
THEMSELVES IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE--RETURN TO SAUDI 
ARABIA."  IN KEEPING WITH HIS THEME AND FRAMEWORK, 
RAFSANJANI SAYS "THE UNITED STATES IS ITSELF 
RESPONSIBLE.....THE DEFEAT OF SAUDI ARABIA WOULD MEAN 
THE DEFEAT OF THE UNITED STATES, SINCE SAUDI ARABIA IS 
ITS MOST IMPORTANT BASE IN THE REGION.  THE UNITED 
STATES HURT ITSELF AND SAUDI ARABIA BY THIS ACT." 
RAFSANJANI ALSO CHARGED THAT THE SAG WAS FUNDING A 
PRO-REAGAN PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN IN THE U.S. TO HELP REAGAN 
RECOVER POLITICAL POPULARITY LOST BECAUSE OF EVENTS IN 
THE GULF (REF. 3.).  OTHER RECENT IRANIAN CHARGES 
INCLUDE THE SAG'S IMPRISONING OF ITS OWN SOLDIERS FOR 
REFUSING "TO SHOOT AT HAJJ PILGRIMS DURING THE MASSACRE 
IN MAKKAH."  THE IRANIANS ALSO HAVE CALLED FOR THE 
SAUDIS TO RELINQUISH CONTROL OVER MAKKAH AND MEDINA, THE 
CENTERS OF THE ANNUAL MUSLIM PILGRIMAGE AND HAVE QUOTED 
HIZBOLLAH MEMBERS FROM LEBANON CALLING FOR THE OVERTHROW 
OF THE SAG.  SAUDI CONTACTS ALSO REPORT HEARING IRANIAN 
RADIO BROADCASTS IN ARABIC DENOUNCING THE SAG FOR 
RECEIVING U.S. CONGRESSMAN STEPHEN SOLARZ. 
 
6.  THE SAUDIS FOR THEIR PART HAVE LAUNCHED THEIR OWN 
RHETORICAL AND DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVES AGAINST IRAN. 
THERE HAVE BEEN DAILY ARTICLES, PHOTOGRAPHS AND 
EDITORIALS:  FRONT PAGE DISPLAYS OF CONFISCATED WEAPONS 
FROM MAKKAH (MOSTLY SCISSORS, NAIL FILES AND LARGE 
KITCHEN KNIVES); ARTICLES ACCUSING THE IRANIANS OF 
WORSHIPING KHOMEINI, NOT GOD; CLAIMS TO HAVE DOCUMENTED 
IRANIAN INTENTIONS TO SEIZE CONTROL OF THE GRAND 
MOSQUE;  INTERVIEWS WITH SAUDI OFFICIALS (E.G. THE 
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SECURITY AND HIS BOSS MINISTER OF 
INTERIOR NAYIF); EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF IRANIAN 
BARBARITY IN MECCA; AND EXTENSIVE, SOMETIMES ALMOST 
LURID PLAY ON THE ATTACKS ON THE SAUDI, KUWAITI AND 
OTHER EMBASSIES IN TEHRAN.  THE DEATH OF SAUDI POLITICAL 
ATTACHE IN TEHRAN MUSA'ID AL-GHAMDI SUPPLIED AN 
IMPORTANT PART OF THE BATTLE OF RHETORIC THE PAST WEEK: 
IN BOLD HEADLINES AUGUST 19 THE ARABIC NEWSPAPER 
AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT DEMANDED THAT IRAN'S RULERS BE PUT TO 
TRIAL FOR AL-GHAMDI'S DEATH.  THE IRANIANS RESPONDED 
THAT THE SAUDIS HAD PREVENTED AL-GHAMDI FROM RECEIVING 
THE MEDICAL TREATMENT HE NEEDED, WHILE THE SAUDIS SAID 
THE IRANIANS HAD REFUSED TO ALLOW THEM TO MEDEVAC 
AL-GHAMDI SO HE COULD GET THE NEEDED TREATMENT. 
 
7.  THE THEMES OF THE SAUDI OFFENSIVE, AS THEY HAVE 
EMERGED IN STATEMENTS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED (INCLUDING IN 
THE EMBASSY'S PAST THREE YEARS' HAJJ REPORTING) ARE 
SEVERAL.  ONE OFT-REPEATED THEME IS THAT POLITICS MUST 
BE CONDUCTED TO SERVE ISLAM AND ITS PRACTICES AND RITES, 
WHEREAS THE ABUSE OF ISLAM AND ITS RITES TO SERVE 
POLITICAL PURPOSES IS IMPIOUS.  THIS THEME IS AMPLIFIED 
AND SUPPORTED BY CONSTANT ATTACKS ON IRANIAN BEHAVIOR 
AND ACTIONS AS NOT ONLY UNISLAMIC BUT AS IN 
CONTRAVENTION OF SPECIFIC ISLAMIC INJUNCTIONS.  THIS HAS 
BEEN REPEATED IN THE STATEMENT OF THE SAUDI ULEMA 
(PREVIOUSLY REPORTED), IN CITATIONS OF AL-AZHAR AND 
ISLAMIC AUTHORITIES OF SEVERAL NATIONS, AND IN ANGRY 
COMMENTARIES AND EDITORIALS.  KHOMEINI IS ANATHEMATIZED 
AS THE TRUE SPIRITUAL HEIR OF THE KILLERS OF ALI AND OF 
THE PROPHET'S GRANDSON HUSSEIN, A LATTER-DAY PROPONENT 
OF THE ZUNJ AND OF THE QARMATI SCHISMATICS, AN EXPONENT 
OF DEVIATION (BID'A), LEADING THE FAITHFUL TO 
HELL-FIRE.  DESCRIPTIONS OF THE MECCA EVENTS BY 
JOURNALISTS AND SAUDI OFFICIALS (CF. REFS B AND C) 
DEPICT THE IRANIANS AS TRYING OVER THE YEARS, IN THE 
FACE OF PATIENT AND RESTRAINED SAUDI EFFORTS TO RESTRAIN 
THEM, TO ENGAGE DURING THE HAJJ RITES IN EXTRANEOUS 
ACTIVITIES HARMFUL TO THE PILGRIMAGE AND ENDANGERING TO 
OTHER PILGRIMS, E.G. LAST YEAR'S EFFORT BY IRANIAN 
PILGRIMS TO SMUGGLE A LARGE QUANTITY OF PLASTIC 
EXPLOSIVES INTO THE KINGDOM.  THIS YEAR'S 
EVENTS--DEPICTED AS A WELL-PLANNED AND PREPARED 
PROVOCATION--ARE PAINTED AS HAVING EXHAUSTED THE SAG'S 
AND THE ISLAMIC WORLD'S PATIENCE AND FORCED THE SAG AND 
OTHER MUSLIMS TO THINK SERIOUSLY ABOUT HOW TO CONTROL 
IRAN'S INCORRIGIBLE AND DANGEROUS TROUBLEMAKING.  IRAN'S 
FANATICAL AND STUBBORN INSISTENCE ON SUCH BEHAVIOR ON 
THE PILGRIMAGE IS ASSOCIATED WITH ITS EQUALLY STUBBORN 
INSISTENCE ON CONTINUING A WAR THAT ALL RESPONSIBLE 
PARTIES KNOW MUST END AND THAT IS A MAJOR SOURCE OF HARM 
TO THE ISLAMIC WORLD. 
 
8.  IRANIAN INTRANSIGENCE, DESTRUCTIVENESS AND UNISLAMIC 
BEHAVIOR, IN BOTH THE MECCA EVENTS AND THE GULF WAR, 
ALSO FORM THE THEMES OF THE EMERGING SAUDI DIPLOMATIC 
OFFENSIVE.  THROUGHOUT THE ARAB AND ISLAMIC WORLDS IN 
PARTICULAR, THE SAUDIS APPEAR TO HAVE ENGAGED IN A 
DELUGE OF INFORMATION ACTIVITY (NOTABLY DISTRIBUTION OF 
VIDEOTAPES) AND ARM-TWISTING, AT TIMES MAKING A 
SUPPORTIVE REACTION WITH REGARD TO THE MECCA RIOTS A 
TOUCHSTONE OF BILATERAL RELATIONS.  THIS EFFORT IS 
DIRECTED AT TWO ENDS:  TO ISOLATE IRAN IN THE ISLAMIC 
WORLD (AND CREATE AT LEAST THE THREAT OF SEVERE 
RESTRICTIONS ON IRANIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE PILGIMAGE), 
AND TO GENERATE GREATER SUPPORT FOR UNSC AND OTHER 
ACTIVITIES TO PRESSURE IRAN TO END THE GULF WAR. 
 
9.  WHILE FONMIN SAUD IN TUNIS DID NOT, IN OUR 
UNDERSTANDING, "CALL FOR" THE ARABS TO BREAK RELATIONS 
WITH IRAN, IT IS CLEAR FROM HIS PUBLIC STATEMENTS BEFORE 
AND DURING THE ARAB LEAGUE MINISTERIAL THAT THIS IS AN 
EVENTUALITY THAT SAUD DID WANT TO RAISE AND WANTS IRAN 
TO BEGIN CONTEMPLATING.  IN HIS ARRIVAL STATEMENT SAUD 
SPECIFICALLY AVERRED THAT IRAN'S "ACTIONS AGAINST THE 
EMBASSIES OF THE KINGDOM AND KUWAIT AND OTHER EMBASSIES 
CONFIRMS THAT THIS COUNTRY DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE RULES 
AND PRINCIPLES OF DIPLOMATIC ACTION." (REF E).  WHILE 
THE ROLE SAUD PLAYED IN THE MEETING WAS AGGRESSIVE (AND 
SAUDI DIPLOMACY IS LIKELY TO CONTINUE IN THIS VEIN), WE 
BELIEVE THE SAUDI GOAL WAS NOT TO ACHIEVE A BREAK IN 
ARAB RELATIONS WITH IRAN BUT TO CREATE THE THREAT.  (THE 
SAUDIS ARE REALISTS AND UNDERSTAND THE LINEUP OF THE 
PLAYERS.)  THE COMBINATION OF DISCUSSING A HARSH DRAFT 
RESOLUTION, ADOPTING A MILDER ONE, AND DECIDING TO 
RECONVENE IN A MONTH GENERATES PRESSURE ON BOTH SYRIA 
AND IRAN.  IT ALSO PROVIDES SYRIA A JUSTIFICATION FOR 
ACCEPTING THE RESOLUTION THAT WAS ACTUALLY PASSED, WHICH 
IN FACT APPEARS TO GIVE THE SAUDIS WHAT THEY WANTED FROM 
THIS MEETING:  SUPPORT FOR ENFORCEMENT OF UNSC RES. 598, 
AND FOR SAUDI ARABIA AND KUWAIT. 
 
10.  COMMENT:  THE SAUDI PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN IS 
UNPRECEDENTED IN ITS EXPLICTNESS, ITS INTENSITY AND ITS 
DURATION.  SINCE THE VIOLENT CLASHES IN MAKKAH BETWEEN 
IRANIAN PILGRIMS AND SAG SECURITY FORCES,  IRAN HAS YET 
TO BE ABSENT FROM THE FRONT PAGE HEADLINES OF THE SAUDI 
PRESS.  SAUDI DIPLOMACY, TOO, IS UNACCUSTOMEDLY 
HIGH-PROFILE AND SHOWS SIGNS OF CONTINUING TO BE SO. 
WHILE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE SAG MAY TIRE OF ALL THIS 
ACTIVITY AND CONFRONTATION, WE DOUBT THAT THIS WILL 
HAPPEN UNLESS THE IRANIANS CHANGE COURSE AND OFFER THE 
SAG AMPLE SPACE AND EXCUSE TO EASE UP.  THE PROVOCATIONS 
AND THE STAKES, IN THE SAG PERSPECTIVE, HAVE BEEN AND 
ARE UNUSUALLY GRAVE.  THE CHALLENGE TO SAUDI 
CUSTODIANSHIP OF THE SHRINES AT MECCA AND MEDINA IS FAR 
TOO SERIOUS AN ISSUE FOR THE SAG TO RISK LOSING BY 
DEFAULT IN ISLAMIC OPINION.  FURTHER, SAG CONCERN AT THE 
THREAT POSED BY THE GULF WAR HAS STEADILY GROWN, AND 
WITH IT SAUDI DETERMINATION TO PUSH HARD FOR AN END TO 
THE WAR.  THE SAG SEES IN THE MECCA EVENTS AN 
OPPORTUNITY FURTHER TO ISOLATE IRAN AND TO CREATE 
GREATER INTERNATIONAL MOMENTUM FOR ACTION BY THE 
SECURITY COUNCIL TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON IRAN. 
 
11.  ON THE HOME FRONT THE SAG SEES THE POSSIBILITY OF 
PUTTING IRAN IN THE POSITION OF WEAKENED DEMANDEUR WITH 
REGARD TO FUTURE HAJJ ARRANGEMENTS.  WITH THE 
POSSIBILITY THAT SOME OR ALL SAUDI DIPLOMATS MAY BE 
WITHDRAWN FROM TEHRAN AND HINTS ABROAD OF SOME FORM OF 
INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC APPROVAL FOR THE SAUDIS TO 
RESTRICT THE RIGHT OF TROUBLEMAKERS TO MAKE THE HAJJ, 
THE SAUDIS BELIEVE THE IRANIANS WILL ONE DAY NOTE THAT 
THEY MAY FACE THE CHOICE OF CONCILIATING THE SAG OR 
BEING UNABLE, WHETHER FOR FORMAL OR LOGISTICAL REASONS, 
TO SEND MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF PILGRIMS NEXT YEAR.  THUS 
THE SAUDIS SEE THEIR POSITION VIS-A-VIS THE IRANIANS AS 
ESPECIALLY STRONG AT PRESENT, AND ARE SHOWING EVERY SIGN 
OF DETERMINATION TO PRESS THEIR ADVANTAGE.  END 
COMMENT. 
 
HORAN 

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