Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Iran have remained mutually committed to recriminating each other for their foreign policy and the overall attitudes of their leaders. In addition to rejecting requests for compromise over Syria, Iran used the Vienna security conference to blame Saudi Arabia in particular for a negative influence on the process of discerning a political solution. The Saudis back factions of the rebellion against Assad, but Iran’s defense of the latter has been blamed for dramatically prolonging a conflict that might have quickly led to his ouster.
This arguable double-standard was repeated on Monday in Iran’s latest criticism of Saudi Arabia. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reports that Tehran had summoned a Saudi diplomat over the execution of three Iranian nationals accused of smuggling large amount of hashish.
While and official statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry used the incident to preemptively explain further deterioration of bilateral ties, it ignored the fact that Iran consistently exceeds the number of Saudi executions. The vast majority of Iranian death sentences are passed against drug offenders, and Tehran has been known to sentence foreign nationals to death, as in the case of the later-commuted death sentence to Iranian-American dual citizen Amir Hekmati.
At the same time that Tehran is willfully contributing to the breakdown of official relations with rivals like Saudi Arabia, its outreach to other foreign powers may prove to have adverse effects on more illicit relations. Iran has denied wide-ranging accusations of collaboration with North Korea over issues of nuclear development. Although some of these accusations originated with South Korea, an official from Seoul was welcomed into the Islamic Republic on Saturday, according to Asia One.
While in the country, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urged North Korea to abandon its obsession with nuclear weapons and to negotiate in good faith with the international community. In so doing, he tacitly called upon Iran to uphold its diplomatic commitments, compelling Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to issue a statement against the North Korean nuclear program, from which Tehran had apparently benefitted in the past.
Such incidents may complicate Iranian foreign policy at a time when the supreme leader and his supporters have committed to general non-cooperation with Western powers. If Tehran loses allies over its commitment to the Assad regime or to its nuclear program, it may find itself overextended in the region without expected military support or financial resources.