PHOTO: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir: “Iran’s dangerous sectarian and expansionist policies”
Days after implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia has launched another high-profile volley in its diplomatic battle with Iran.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir used a New York Times opinion piece to proclaim, “Iran, rather than confronting the isolation it has created for itself, opts to obscure its dangerous sectarian and expansionist policies, as well as its support for terrorism, by leveling unsubstantiated charges against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The article was a challenge to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s column in the Times on January 10 that asserted Saudi Arabia is the “real global threat” with “its active sponsorship of violent extremism”.
Relations between Riyadh and Tehran have long been tense, with conflict over regional issues such as the crises in Syria and Yemen and competition to show leadership of the Islamic world. They worsened on January 2 when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric. Crowds in Tehran and Mashhad attacked Saudi missions, and Riyadh broke off diplomatic ties with Iran the next day.
Iran’s President Rouhani has called for an enquiry into the attacks on the Saudi Embassy and Consulate, about 50 people were arrested, and two Iranian officials resigned. However, leading clerics, MPs, and military commanders have continued to denounce Riyadh, with some saying that the Saudis planned the burning and ransacking of their buildings.
In his Tuesday article, al-Jubeir set aside the nuclear issue, “We acknowledge Iran’s initial actions regarding the agreement to suspend its program to develop a nuclear weapon.” Instead, he focused on claims of a history of “terrorist” attacks by Iran or “its proxies” and its testing of ballistic missiles.
The Foreign Minister also cited Iran’s support of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement, which has taken power in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Saudi Arabia led an intervention in March, including extensive bombing, to check the advance of Ansar Allah and its allies.
Al-Jubeir said Iran was bolstered Syria’s Assad regime — both through its own forces and through Hezbollah — because it wants to maintain a weapons supply route to the Lebanese group. He accused Tehran of complicity “in the deaths of at least 191,000 people” through the Syrian regime’s attacks.
Despite Riyadh’s cut-off of diplomatic relations, an Iranian official will be in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss the Saudi-Iranian crisis.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi is will attend attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the situation.
Picture: Blogger Ronaghi Maleki Returns to Prison After Furlough
Blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki returns to Evin Prison after a furlough because of poor health:
Ronaghi Maleki was arrested in December 2009 amid the mass protests following the disputed Presidential election, and was given a 15-year prison sentence in October 2010.
The blogger was given medical leave in June 2015 but was summoned back to prison this week despite doctors’ advice against stopping his specialized medical care.
Head of Basij: US “Bought Freedom of Spies” for $1.7 Billion
The head of the Basij paramilitary organization, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has claimed a victory over the US, with Washington releasing $1.7 billion of Iran’s assets for the freedom of four Americans from Iranian prisons.
“The annulment of sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7 billion of Iran’s frozen assets after 36 years showed that the US doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,” Naqdi told Basij forces in Tehran on Wednesday.
He added, “This money was returned for the freedom of the US spies and it was not related to the [nuclear] negotiations.”
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the repayment to settle a suit brought by Iran before an international legal tribunal. Kerry said the outcome was a compromise, with Tehran accepting part of the interest that had accrued on a $400 million trust fund since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The announcement came a day after Iran freed four Iranian-American detainees, including journalist Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati, and Pastor Saeed Abedini. A fifth American, NGO staffer Matthew Trevithick, was freed after he was arrested in December while studying Farsi in Tehran.
Head of Revolutionary Guards: US Cannot Defeat Our “Volunteers” in Syria, Iraq, and Libya
The head of the Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, has proclaimed that the US cannot defeat “volunteers” supported by Iran in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
Jafari told a ceremony in Tehran on Wednesday: “A massive numberless popular force similar to Basij [paramilitary organization] has been formed in Iraq, Syria and Libya against internal and foreign plots which is necessary for the survival of resistance.”
The commander repeated his declaration last week of the scale of the effort: “An over-200,000-strong organized popular force has been formed in these countries and it is the same force that no army even of the US and Israel can confront it.”
Jafari oversaw the creation of the National Defense Forces militia, with a goal of 50,000 members, to prop up the Assad regime’s military in Syria. Since the end of September, Iran has supplemented the effort with more commanders, fighters, and foreign militias to accompany Russian airstrikes in support of regime offensives.
Iran is also working with Shia militias in Iraq to challenge the Islamic State.