with an Arab television station, the former Iranian foreign minister and the present head of Iran’s atomic agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, vowed that Tehran is not after enmity with Arabs. In response to a question about the reasons behind tensions with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Salehi said that as foreign minister (2010-2013) he had taken concrete steps to improve ties to Riyadh. “I say it now as well, that we are prepared to have a conversation with the Saudis to discuss misunderstandings and the threats they feel come from Iran.”
But then Salehi quickly dismissed Saudi concerns about Iranian meddling in the region as unsubstantiated and claimed that the Saudis have themselves decided to turn Iran into an enemy. While he urged the Saudis to pursue dialogue with its rivals in places such as Yemen, Salehi at the same time also offered Tehran’s willingness to mediate. In other words, there was nothing new in Salehi’s remarks other than adopting a more polite tone while downplaying Riyadh’s deep concerns about Tehran’s actions in the Middle East. Such Saudi concerns are most likely part of the message that the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister will deliver when he visits Tehran this week on behalf of the Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.