With little regard for normal diplomatic protocol, Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reached out to arch-rival Mohammad Bin Salman in a letter dismissed by officials and experts.
Ahmadinejad has apparently urged the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince to join hands in ending war and conflict in the Middle East.
“I know that your Excellency is not happy about the current situation of innocent people dying and getting injured every day and infrastructure being damaged,” said the former Iranian official in his letter, a copy of which has been sent to the New York Times. “You are upset that regional resources belonging to the people are used for destruction instead of developing peace and prosperity. For these reasons you will welcome a just peace.”
Signed “your brother Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” it is thought that the letter to Bin Salman is one of three to have been sent. The 63-year-old Ahmadinejad, who served as President of Iran for eight years until 2013, has also written to the leader of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen —locked in a bitter conflict with Riyadh since 2015 — and to UN Secretary General António Guterres. The three letters are said to represent a proposal by Ahmadinejad to mediate an end to Yemen’s war by creating a committee of international dignitaries.
Iranian officials and analysts have played down the significance of the letters. “His [Ahmadinejad’s] views, as long as he remains a private citizen like many other Iranians, have no relation to the government and administration policies at this moment,” said Alireza Miryusefi, the spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations. He dismissed the former President’s attempts at independent diplomacy.
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, an independent Iran analyst based in New York, was reported in the NYT saying that the Saudi Crown Prince would not take him seriously. “All the people who are dealing with Iran, either regionally or internationally, know who holds the reins and it’s [Supreme Leader] Khamenei.”
Pointing out that Ahmadinejad cannot be dismissed outright, the NYT mentioned that he holds a seat on the Expediency Council, an appointed body that is supposed to supervise all branches of the government in Tehran. He routinely travels around Iran giving campaign-style speeches and appears to have a sizable number of followers.
It is also possible that the letter is intended to draw attention to Ahmadinejad’s political comeback. The semi-official Iranian news agency, Young Journalists Club, reported in June that he intends to run in the 2021 presidential election.