Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in a TV interview, has categorically stated that it is impossible for Saudi Arabia to participate in any sort of dialogue with Iran.
“How can we get along with a regime which has an extremist ideology… and a profound wish to dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith?”
He said that Iran’s plan to control the Muslim world and its efforts to spread the Shi’ite faith did not allow Saudi Arabia to re-initiate diplomatic ties with Iran. “How can we get along with a regime which has an extremist ideology… and a profound wish to dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith?” Prince Mohammed said.
Currently, Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a proxy war with Iran in Yemen where it is leading a coalition backed effort against Houthi rebels who are sponsored by Iran. Both states are also engaged in proxy conflicts in surrounding states like Iraq and Syria.
The Saudi Prince’s statements follow diplomatic efforts on part of Pakistan to bring about a rapprochement between the two regional rivals.
There is also the question of Gen. (retd) Raheel Sharif’s contract as the head of the new Islamic coalition force formed by Saudi Arabia. Gen. (retd) Raheel Sharif had stated that he would head the coalition only if Saudi Arabia agreed to invite Iran. Whether Saudi Arabia followed through with their promise is as of yet unknown.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia had requested Pakistan to join its war against Yemen, an Iranian ally. The Pakistani parliament rejected the request after it was decided it should not take sides between any of its neighbours or other friendly countries. The reason for rejecting the offer was fear of deepening sectarian fault lines in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia had then gone onto form a 34 nation Islamic military coalition with the overt motive to combat terrorism. Pakistan became a member of the coalition despite internal parliamentary opposition.
Opposition parties in the parliament voiced their disagreement regarding Pakistan’s involvement in any sort of inter-Muslim conflict as it may exacerbate the sectarian divisions in Pakistan, which has a diverse population.