World War 3: Saudi Arabia Warns Iran
Saudi Arabia urged fellow Arab League nations to find a “non-compromise” solution to deal with “Iran’s aggression” and “disregard for international law” during a specially-summoned foreign ministers’ meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
“We will not stand idly by in the face of Iran’s aggression,” Riyadh’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said in public remarks to the assembled officials.
The Saudi official accused Tehran of “meddling” in various Middle Eastern states, particularly focusing on the Houthi faction in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Iran created agents in the region, such as the Houthi and Hezbollah militias, in total disregard for all international principles,” said al-Jubeir.
The minister, a long-time ambassador to the US appointed as foreign minister two years ago, said that 80 Iran-manufactured missiles had been launched from Yemen since the conflict broke out in the country in March 2015.
“Showing leniency toward Iran will not leave any Arab capital safe from those ballistic missiles,” he said, in reference to the failed missile attack on Riyadh from Yemen earlier this month, which the Saudis believe was ordered by Tehran.
Earlier, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, which comprises 22 Sunni-dominated states in the Middle East and North Africa, made similar remarks, accusing Iran of fomenting sectarianism, and developing potentially destabilizing missile technology.
“We say it in clear terms that Iranian threats have exceeded all boundaries and are pushing the region toward the abyss,” said Aboul-Gheit.
In a resolution published after the one-day summit wrapped up, the Arab League said that it “does not intend to declare war against Iran for the moment” but warned that “Saudi Arabia has the right to defend its territory.”
While the Cairo meeting produced a display of unity, Saudi Arabia was largely preaching to the choir.
Notably, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil skipped the meeting, and reports in the local media suggested that the country did not want to be made a prominent part of the Arab League declaration.
As several of the speakers in Cairo noted, Lebanon has become a key flashpoint between Saudi and Iranian interests, particularly since the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh earlier this month, which many believed was a direct result of Saudi pressure.
The House of Saud has been losing ground in the multi-religious Mediterranean state, and the Bahraini foreign minister at the Arab League summit called Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia “Iran’s longest arm in the region.”
Riyadh is also involved in an increasingly intractable proxy war in Yemen, where millions have been affected by a Saudi-led blockade, and its affiliated factions have failed to topple President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Unsurprisingly, any Saudi-penned proposals are likely to fall on deaf ears in Tehran, with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accusing Saudi Arabia of “warmongering” and “sowing discord” during a different summit with Turkey and Russia in Antalya.
Israel Talking to Saudi Arabia
“The connection with the moderate Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, is helping us curb Iran,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio. Riyadh, with which Tel Aviv does not have diplomatic ties, is not the only not so obvious Israel’s partner in the region, the minister proffered, adding that his country is “usually the party that is not ashamed” of such contacts.
“It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side’s wish, when ties are developing, whether it’s with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries,” he said, adding that there are a number of contacts that are kept secret.
The disclosure comes just days after the publication of an unprecedented interview with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff to a Saudi newspaper. The top military official then said his country was ready to share intelligence on Iran with Riyadh.
“There is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region,” Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the paper, adding that Tel Aviv wanted to “exchange intelligence to confront Iran.” Having accused Tehran of trying to destabilize the region by supplying arms to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, the IDF chief noted that Israel and Saudi Arabia had never fought each other.
Hezbollah a Threat to Regional Peace
Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement must disarm and become a regular political party for the situation in Lebanon to stabilize, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. He added that Riyadh’s policy is a reaction to Iran’s “aggression.”
In an interview with Reuters, the minister called the Shiite Hezbollah party and militant group a “subsidiary” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and said that Saudi Arabia is currently consulting with its allies to decide what leverage it can use to force the Lebanese movement to comply with its demands. He added that Riyadh would make a decision “in time.”
Jubeir went on to say that his country decided to take action in response to what it called the increasingly aggressive behavior of Iran in the region, particularly in Yemen and Lebanon. “Any way you look at it, they (the Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying enough is enough,” he said.
Riyadh’s role in the ongoing Lebanese political crisis remains obscure. In early November, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri abruptly resigned in a surprise announcement made during a visit to the Saudi capital. He has remained in the kingdom ever since.
This situation gave rise to speculation that the politician was not acting of his own free will. On Wednesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he considers Hariri “detained” by the Saudis, as “nothing justifies” his “lack of return for 12 days.”
After announcing his resignation, Hariri accused Iran and Hezbollah of a “desire to destroy the Arab world” and said that he feared for his life. The Saudi officials then accused the group of “kidnapping” Lebanon.
In response, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah denounced the whole situation around Hariri’s resignation an “unprecedented Saudi intervention” in Lebanon’s internal affairs. He also accused Riyadh of taking Hariri “prisoner” in an attempt to “impose its will on the Lebanese government.”
On Thursday, Jubeir said that Hariri’s resignation was his own decision, adding that the Lebanese politician would independently decide when to return to his homeland. The Saudi minister also rejected all allegations concerning Saudi Arabia detaining Hariri as “baseless.”
The tensions around Hariri’s resignations were partially defused as the politician agreed to visit France upon the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron. A spokeswoman for the French presidency said on Wednesday that Hariri would arrive in Paris “in the coming days.” Following the news, Aoun expressed his hope that this move would put an end to Lebanon’s political crisis.
After his visit to Paris, Hariri is expected to fly home to Beirut to officially submit his resignation. Earlier, Aoun said he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until he presents it himself upon his arrival in the Lebanese capital.