Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has taken Iran’s campaign against Saudi Arabia to The New York Times, warning that “beautiful weapons” sold by the US to Riyadh cannot bring Middle Eastern peace.
Zarif’s column is the latest Iranian response to the declaration of the Saudi purchase $110 billion of US military equipment — and $380 billion over 10 years — made during Donald Trump’s visit to the Kingdom last weekend.
Iran has deployed rhetoric across all fronts. President Hassan Rouhani and the Foreign Ministry have criticized Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war and repression of protests by Saudi ally Bahrain, while the Revolutionary Guards have announced the construction of a third underground facility to produce ballistic missiles.
On Friday, Zarif contrasted Trump’s reception in Saudi Arabia with the Iranian election — “the path of moderation and constructive engagement based on mutual respect” — that brought Rouhani a second term. The Foreign Minister pointedly noted that “the last time the Saudis spent that kind of money was when they provided billions to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980s”, during the Iraq-Iran War, and continued:
At best, Mr. Trump is extorting our Saudi neighbors, milking them for money they do not have. At worst, he could be turning the United States into Saudi Arabia’s mercenary in the Middle East, a rather ignominious position for America considering where 15 of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from….
Something deeply rotten is unfolding in our part of the world.
Zarif then set up a lengthy contrast between Riyadh’s supposed support of extremism — the “global export of Wahhabis which inspires the extremist ideology of Al Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State and many other terrorist groups wreaking havoc from Karachi to Manchester” — with Iran’s purported efforts for peace:
What will work is a genuine effort to forge inclusive engagement among the regional powers based on a policy of coexistence and acceptance that military solutions are futile….
Iran has been aiding the victims of extremism in Iraq and Syria. By helping to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Baghdad and Damascus, Iran is actively promoting a political solution to the conflicts in both countries.