DUSHANBE, Asia-Plus – Tajik experts recommend that official Dushanbe hold a neutral position over the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Tajik political scientist Parviz Mullojonov considers that the thaw in relations between Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia against the backdrop of deterioration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia could be interpreted by Tehran as an anti-Iranian step and expression of support for its main geopolitical rival in the Muslim world.
“Tehran today perceives with pain everything related to Saudi Arabia. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia came close to breaking point just several months ago after a juicy scandal caused by sexual assault by Saudi security officers against two Iranian boys,” Mullojonov said.
We will recall that Iran last April suspended flights to Saudi Arabia for the year-round Umrah pilgrimage over allegations that Saudi security officers sexually assaulted two Iranian boys.
The teenage boys reportedly said that the officers had abused them while conducting a security search at Jeddah airport. The move has deepened tensions between the two regional powers.
“Riyadh is trying to create a wide anti-Iranian coalition, and to-date, only several countries has joined it, including Sudan, where a group of religious extremists closely connected with Al-Qaeda is in power,” Mullojonov said.
He also noted that there ought to take into consideration that relations between Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation, which is Tajikistan’s main geopolitical partner, are not so good. “In Russia, Saudis and Qataris are accused of supporting radical Salafi and Islamist groups in the North Caucasus and the post-Soviet area. Some Russian officials have also repeatedly mentioned role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in establishing Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State terrorist group and other extremist organizations,” said the expert. “Therefore, further demonstrative intimacy between Dushanbe and Riyadh can affect Russia authorities’ attitude to Tajikistan.”
There also ought to take into account that funds and organizations closely connected with Saudi Arabia’s authorities are accused of sponsoring Salafi and other extremist religious organizations throughout the world.
“In Russia and Central Asia’s nations, they are speaking more and more frequently about formation of an influential pro-Saudi Arabia lobby, which is accused of supporting local Salafi groups, inciting and-Iranian and anti-Shia moods, and propagating against the moderate Hanafi mazhab and traditional clerics related to local Sufi traditions,” Mullojonov said.
It is worth stressing that the official and dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia is Salafism, which has been banned in Tajikistan since 2009.
Tajik political scientists Rashid Ghani Abdullo and Abdumalik Qodirov also consider that political difficulties between Iran and Saudi Arabia should not affect Tajikistan’s bilateral cooperation with those countries.
Thus, Rashid Ghani Abdullo notes that Tajikistan is interested in attracting financial resources both from Iran and Saudi Arabia to develop its national economy. Therefore, Tajikistan ought to establish rational relations with both countries.
Abdumalik Qodirov considers that Tajikistan should pursue a multi-vector foreign policy. At the same, the expert notes that political views of Tajikistan differ from those of Saudi Arabia. “Tajikistan is creating a democratic society, while Saudi Arabia has different view on democracy,” Qodirov said.