Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pushed back against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, expressing wonder that the kingdom can show so much hostility towards neighbors and the region.
Rouhani (pictured) spoke after a Cabinet meeting, following warnings by Riyadh this week of “acts of war” by Iran, Hezbollah, and the Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement that controls much of Yemen.
The President proclaimed Iran’s “power and position” and asserts that coutnries stronger than Saudi Arabia, such as the US and its allies, have failed to harm Iran. He warned Riyadh of a “strategic mistake and a miscalculation” to choose friendship with the US and Israel over good relations with Tehran.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were broken in January 2016, and the battle of rhetoric has sharpened since the spring, when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — the leading forces in Saudi politics and foreign policy — said any war with the Islamic Republic would be inside Iran’s borders.
Last week, after an internal wave of arrests strengthening Mohammad bin Salman’s position, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during his visit to Riyadh, collapsing a coalition government including Iran’s ally Hezbollah. Saudi officials then warned of a confrontation with Tehran and Hezbollah.
The Saudis also said that Iran was behind the firing of a missile on Riyadh by the Houthis, a claim denied by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as he wrote that the kingdom is “engaged in wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior & risky provocations”. Zarif followed up on Wednesday:
As we inch closer to end of Syrian nightmare through inclusive dialog, we must do same for Yemen. Not impose new crises by bombings, threats or resignations. There's no crisis that diplomacy cant resolve.We proved that once. Iran aims to secure peace to exclusion of no one.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 8, 2017
Rouhani defended the Houthi action in his Cabinet statement:
What reaction can the nation of Yemen show toward this amount of bombardment? They say that they should not use weapons? Well, you stop the bombs, and then see if you don’t get a positive reaction from the nation of Yemen.
Rejecting the Saudi allegations of Iran’s interference in other countries, the President emphasized that Iran is helping Iraq and Syria in the “fight against terrorism at the request of their own governments”.