Thursday, 16 January, 2020

Riyadh seeking to undermine Dushanbe-Tehran ties

A lawmaker said the recent diplomatic tensions between Iran and Tajikistan are indications that Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has been influenced by Riyadh’s anti-Iran agenda, warning the Central Asian country about the infiltration of Saudi “takfiri” ideology.

In a recent talk with ICANA, Morteza Saffari Natanzi, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said, “Tajik officials have not realized yet that Saudi Arabia, as the spiritual father of Daesh [the Arabic acronym referring to the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group], intends to spread its takfiri-terrorist ideology in Central Asia.”

Takfiris, inspired by Saudi Wahhabism, are hardliners who accuse Muslims not following their extremist interpretation of Islam as heretics punishable by death. In June, Dushanbe ordered the Iranian Embassy to shut down its economic and cultural offices in Khujand, the second largest city in Tajikistan, without giving a reason for the latest government crackdown on Iranian activities in that country.

Over the past two years, several Iranian government organizations and charities have also been forced to suspend their activities in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, including the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, the Cultural Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a hospital jointly run by the Tajik government and the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

Pointing to the role of Saudi petrodollars in the recent standoff, Saffari said “by paying kickbacks to some Tajik officials, Riyadh seeks to sabotage Tehran-Dushanbe relations.”

During his last year’s trip to Saudi Arabia in January, Rahmon received loans and financial aid from the Saudi government in what many believed were Riyadh’s attempts to pry a good ally away from Iran.

Tajikistan is comparatively the poorest country in Central Asia. It lacks the oil wealth of Kazakhstan or the natural gas of Turkmenistan, leaving it highly susceptible to foreign investment and expertise as it seeks to develop its economy.

  Call for Diplomacy

The lawmaker called on the Foreign Ministry to increase its diplomatic activities regarding Tehran-Dushanbe ties, stressing that “there had been some negligence over the issue of [bilateral ties]”.

“Al-Saud regime will take up any opportunity to deal a blow to Iran’s national interests,” he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani only visited Tajikistan once to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Council meeting in Dushanbe, during his first term in office, while Rahmon has not traveled to Iran in the past four years.

The legislator reminded the Tajik officials of Iran’s indispensable aid to the Central Asian country in the past, stressing that “Iranian services rendered to Tajikistan helped it reach stability.”

Iran was one of the main players in arranging talks and brokering a peace deal between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition during Tajikistan’s 1992-97 civil war.

Iran invested some $180 million and endured countless objections from Uzbekistan to help build Tajikistan’s Sangtuda-2 hydropower plant that has become a crucial source of electricity for Tajikistan.

The critical Anzob Tunnel, connecting northern and southern Tajikistan by road, has also been completed by Iran.

“Causing tensions in bilateral ties and promoting Saudi takfiri ideology would only give rise to vicious extremists in Tajikistan,” he concluded.

Via: Financial Tribune

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