The Iranian media speculates that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s month-long tour of Asia-Pacific region is aimed at expanding Riyadh’s “anti-Iran” coalition to pressure and isolate Tehran. Tabnak, an outlet affiliated with Expediency Discernment Council Secretary and former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) Commander Mohsen Rezaei, described the Saudi leader’s Asia trip as a new round of “diplomatic pressure” by Riyadh against the Islamic Republic. “Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia are among the most important Islamic countries in the Asian continent. All of them are Saudi Arabia’s strong allies against this country’s great regional rival Iran. The Saudis have invited all these countries to join their military alliance – which is ostensibly to fight terrorism; however, its real target is nothing but Iran.”

The article also referred to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s recent visit to Baghdad as a sign of a “fundamental and dramatic shift” in Saudi Arabia’s regional policies. It warned that Riyadh is improving its ties with Baghdad to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. “Of course given Iraq’s large Shiite population, Saudis can never match Iran’s influence and leverage in Iraq, but they can ultimately exercise some of their influence in the country,” it cautioned.

Comment: Both the Iranian government and media have been closely monitoring King Salman’s high-profile Asia tour. Riyadh hopes boosting economic and trade ties with Asian economic giants China and Japan will help Saudi Arabia to diversify its economy, and that cultivating closer relations with Sunni-majority Asia-Pacific countries will also help contain Iran’s expansionist agenda in the Muslim world. This is worrying to Iranian leaders as Tehran is already concerned about Riyadh’s efforts to improve its relations with Washington as well as regional countries to counter Iranian actions in the Arab world. The Iranian media has recently been warning about the creation of a “NATO 2” regional alliance against Tehran; and the recent visit by the Saudi foreign minister to Baghdad has further alarmed Tehran.

Read moreover, the Iranian government sees its relations with Muslim countries in the Asia-Pacific region significant for both economic and political reasons. Iran’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily on Friday to a joint statement by Malaysian and Saudi leaders that condemned Tehran’s interference in internal affairs of regional countries. The statement indicated that Muslim countries beyond the Middle East are concerned about Iran's meddling in internal affairs of sovereign nations. The government of Maldives has also criticized Tehran of promoting instability and sectarianism in the region.