Saudi Prince Repeats Accusations Against Iran

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman During the G20 Summit in Hangzhou China 04 September 2016 (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/Epa/REX/Shutterstockl)

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has accused Iran of an act of direct military aggression by supplying missiles to rebels in Yemen. On Saturday, a ballistic missile was intercepted near the Saudi capital, and the Houthi rebels confirmed that they were responsible.

This may be considered an act of war, state media quoted the prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a telephone conversation.

“The involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the Saudi prince supposedly said to Johnson.

Support from Washington

Prince Mohammed, who is also defense minister, is seen as a key proponent of the intervention in Yemen, and is also leading an anti-corruption campaign that resulted in two doyen arrests of prominent Saudi figures during the weekend. While this turmoil has put his country into political struggles, he has secured the support of US president Donald Trump, who yesterday wrote on his Twitter handle that he has “great confidence” in the Saudi king and prince.

The US permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the missile fired in a similiar incident in July was an “Iranian Qaim”, which she described as a “type of weapon that had not been present in Yemen before the conflict. The missile shot down on Saturday may also be of Iranian origin”, she added, concluding that Tehran has broken at least 2 UN resolutions.

Iran has denied the accusations as baseless and provocative. Saudis and their Sunni Arab allies view Yemen’s Houthi rebels – who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam – as Iranian proxies and have accused Tehran of giving them military backing. The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted on Monday that the Saudi kingdom was engaged in “wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior and risky provocations and yet blames Iran for the consequences”.

Iran’s foreign ministry has said earlier the missile launch was an independent action by the Houthis in response to Saudi-led coalition “aggression”.

UN demands droping the KSA blockade

The United Nations on Tuesday demanded that Saudi Arabia drop its newly tightened blockade on Yemen’s borders, Deutche Welle writes.

Saudi Arabia shut down Yemen’s airports, land borders and sea ports yesterday following the incident with a Houthi ballistic missile on Saturday. Saudi Arabia said the complete shutdown was a temporary measure and that the humanitarian aid won’t be affected, but the blockade was slammed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“The situation is catastrophic in Yemen, it is the worst food crisis we are looking at today, seven million people are on the brink of famine, millions of people being kept alive by our humanitarian operations,” a spokesman for the office, Jens Laerke, told reporters in Geneva.

Saudi – Iran tensions shake the region

Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a regional “Cold War”; a battle for influence and power, BBC analyzes. And just like the US-Soviet Cold War, while the two main protagonists are not directly involved in fighting each other, they or their proxies are engaged on a number of other battlefields.

The Saudis went into Yemen to counter alleged Iranian influence, but the campaign has proved to be a tiresome operation for the Saudi forces, with limited success. Iran is in the ascendant in Iraq, where it is a close ally of the Shia-dominated government. And it is winning in Syria too, helping to stabilize and consolidate the Assad regime. Saudi support for Syrian rebel factions has achieved close to nothing.

One more point of contention between the two regional superpowers is the political crisis in Lebanon. The resignation on Saturday of the Saudi-allied Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri, announced from Riyadh and blamed on Iran and Hezbollah, is seen by many as the first step in an unprecedented intervention in Lebanese politics. Hezbollah was part of the ruling coalition before Hariri’s decision.

“The Saudis appear to have decided that the best way to confront Iran is to start in Lebanon,” a European diplomat said to Reuters.

Riyadh is blaming Hezbollah for “hijacking” Lebanese politics, but they are also widening blame to Lebanon as a whole, saying it too has declared war on the Kingdom. Neither Hezbollah nor the Lebanese government responded on Tuesday to the Saudi accusation.

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