Despite their public pronouncements and overt disputes, the Saudi and Iranian autocracies share the same objectives: to prevent democracy from taking root in their and other Arab and Muslim countries.
Their overriding goal is to severely undermine the Western democratic influence, especially that of the US, in Arab and Muslim countries. They consider democracy a mortal threat to their oppressive rule.
The Saudi and Iranian regimes compete over the hearts and minds of oppressed Muslims, including their own, and use whatever they can to outdo each other by painting themselves as the protectors of Islam and Muslims worldwide.
The autocratic Saudi rulers accuse Iran of trying to annex the weak but wealthy Arab States around the Persian Gulf, of drawing the Iraqis to their side and of trying to overpower the Saudis' Sunni allies in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Afghanistan, among other places.
The Iranian theocrats accuse the Saudi monarchs of being American and Israeli agents and of collaborating with the US against the Palestinians and Muslim interests.
On his way home after addressing the UN General Assembly in late September 2011, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited two Sunni Arab states: Mauritania and Sudan. Standing next to Sudan's President Hassan Al-Bashir, a well-known butcher of his countrymen, women and children, Ahmadinejad promised to stand firm against the US pressures and sanctions, a speech he repeats when visiting Arab and Muslim countries.
Al-Bashir declared, "We will work together to build a relationship based on cooperation and respect and mutual benefits, and we are looking forward to closer cooperation with Iran." Al-Bashir also declared his support for Iran's nuclear program. In response, the Iran delegation declared that Iran is "ready to transfer its experience in the science and manufacturing sectors, especially technical and engineering services, to improve Sudan's infrastructure." At present, Iran is spending $200 million on different projects in Sudan.
The Saudis see Iran's increasing influence among some Sunni Muslims as a threat to their dominance in the Greater Middle East. Petrified by the Arab Revolt's spell over the region and Iran's increasing influence in it, the Saudis are forging alliances with other absolute Arab monarchs and strengthening their bilateral relations with Turkey and Pakistan, two nuclear Sunni Muslim states. These public maneuvers by the Saudi and Iranian despots do not reflect their true intentions and common objectives. They sit side by side at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, cooperate within OPEC and exchange high officials' visits, in addition to countless trade, art and cultural exchanges.
Fully cognizant of their unpopularity at home and fear of popular uprising, the Saudi and Iranian theocracies need as many external enemies to blame for their failures at home as they can garner. For this reason alone, they need to blame each other to justify their draconian practices at home and to strengthen their legitimacy regionally, as much as they need extremists and terrorists to extract favorable global recognition and support.
Ahmadinejad's recent visit to Mauritania and Sudan -- two Sunni Arab states -- and Sudanese President Hassan Al-Bashir's support for Iran's nuclear program are designed to show the Saudi royals that Iran can recruit Arab allies against the Saudi monarchy.
By design or by accident, the Saudi-Iranian feud is contaminating Arab and Muslim attitudes against the Western democratic influence in Arab and Muslim countries and communities. Given Saudi and Iranian cooperation within major organizations such as OPEC and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and knowing the devious behavior and practices of these two most theocratic and autocratic regimes, this may not be accidental.