PHOTO: President Rouhani addresses officials and ambassadors on Thursday


Adopting a harder rhetorical line on foreign policy, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that the US and Zionism are the main culprits behind terror and insecurity in the Middle East.

Rouhani asked an audience of Iranian officials and ambassadors from Muslim states on Thursday:

Who brought terror and insecurity to this region?. Who set up a usurper regime [Israel] in this region around 70 years go? Is not a good deal of the insecurity, assassinations and wars in our region rooted in the regime occupying al-Quds [Jerusalem]?

The President, referring to US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, said “Zionists and Americans are responsible for all these crimes”. He claimed Islamophobic efforts for centrueis, accompanied by “ignorant friends” and “dependent mercenaries”: “Both have endangered Islam’s reputation and status like the blades of a pair of scissors.”

Speaking of specific issues, Rouhani condemned Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in the Yemeni civil war, “How can we remain silent while Yemeni people are savagely bombed everyday by those who call themselves the custodians of the Grand Mosque [of Mecca]?”

Why The Tough Rouhani?

It was not clear whether the speech marked a shift in Rouhani’s foreign policy of “engagement”, which has been challenged by hardliners and conservatives, or whether he was just putting the rhetoric for the Supreme Leader, who preceded him in an address to the officials and ambassadors.

Ayatollah Khamenei, continuing months of challenges and denunciation of the US, said, “Today, the definite American policy is to fight Islam, Iran, and Shias.”

He continued with an implicit reference to Iran’s continuing economic difficulties, despite the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal, “Lately, the Americans have announced that Iran’s policy in the region is a cause for sanctions and confrontation, meaning ‘you, the Iranian people who are vigilant and aware; you have to back down and let us do our work’.”

Kurdish Insurgents Kill Revolutionary Guards Troops

Kurdish insurgents have killed Revolutionary Guard troops in fighting in northwest Iran near the Iraqi border.

Media outlets based in Iraqi Kurdistan reported on the Wednesday clashes in villages near the border town of Sardasht.

ARA News said, “This led the Iranian forces to [deploy] additional military reinforcements to the region in a bid to face the unexpected fierce offensive.”

Rudaw News, citing witnesses in three villages, helicopters circled overhead while at least 15 ambulances moved into the area.

“At least 15 ambulances were seen rushing into areas where security forces were deployed,” the report also said.

See also Iran Feature: The Forgotten Kurds Continue Their Struggle

Iran’s State broadcaster IRIB reported Thursday that a funeral was held for two Guards members killed in clashes in Sardasht, but gave no details.

No Kurdish faction has claimed responsibility, although local activists said fighters in from the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) were involved.

The PDKI said on its Twitter account that more than 10 Guards troops had died in Sardasht.

The PDKI is a left-wing Kurdish nationalist group formed in 1945. It announced on February 26 that it was restarting its “armed resistance against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and claimed an attack against a Basij base.

The group waged an insurgency from 1989 to 1996 and reportedly resumed operations last autumn.

Another Kurdish faction, the Kurdistan Freedom Party, announced this week that it is resuming armed operations.