US & Saudi Arabia say it’s necessary to maintain Syria whole & united – White House

Published time: 23 May, 2017 20:00

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US & Saudi Arabia say it's necessary to maintain Syria whole & united – White House
The Syrian conflict must be solved through political means with the country’s unity and territorial integrity maintained, the US and Saudi Arabia has said in a joint statement released by the White House on Tuesday.

Washington and Riyadh “emphasized the importance of reaching a permanent solution to the conflict in Syria based on the Geneva declaration and Security Council resolution 2254, in order to maintain the unity and integrity of Syrian territory,” the statement read.

The announcement, which summed up the discussions of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia last weekend, said that after the end of hostilities, Syria must become “a country that represents the entire spectrum of the Syrian community and free from sectarian discrimination.”

The Geneva II Communique (2014) and UNSC resolution 2254 (2015) envisages a roadmap for a political solution of the Syrian conflict, urging a ceasefire, transitional government and free elections in the country.

Saudi Arabia has also backed “President Trump’s decision to launch missiles at Shayrat Airbase” Tuesday’s statement said further.

The US President ordered a barrage of Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria’s Shayrat airbase in response to an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the country’s Idlib province on April 4. Washington immediately labeled Bashar Assad’s government as the perpetrators of the attack despite Russia calling for an impartial investigation and Syria denying the charge.

“The two sides emphasized the importance that the Syrian regime adhere to the 2013 agreement to eliminate its entire stockpile of chemical weapons,” the statement read.

During Trump’s visit to the Gulf kingdom, the US President and King Salman ”agreed to boost cooperation in order to to eliminate Daesh, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations,” the statement also said.

“The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to curb the flow of foreign fighters and cutting off funding supplies for terrorist organizations.”

Saudi Arabia had previously been blamed for backing extremists in Syria, with Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails saying the Saudis are “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups.”

READ MORE: Trump strikes arms deal with Saudis worth $350bn, $110bn to take effect immediately

The US has provided weapons to the so-called “moderate” rebels fighting the Syrian government with the arms often ending up in the hands of Islamic State or the al-Qaeda offshoot, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Washington and Riyadh also supported the Iraqi government’s efforts to tackle the Islamic State (IS, Daesh, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group while underlining the importance of “preserving the unity and integrity of Iraqi territory.”

Trump and the Saudi monarch then turned on Iran, saying they need to “contain Iran’s malign interference in the internal affairs of other states, instigation of sectarian strife, support of terrorism and armed proxies, and efforts to destabilize the countries in the region.”

READ MORE: US changes tactics against ISIS, working on plan with ‘enthusiastic’ Russians

They also said “the nuclear agreement with Iran (signed under the Obama administration) needs to be re-examined in some of its clauses,” the statement read.

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Iran President Hassan Rouhani blasts Trump’s Saudi summit

Iran’s newly re-elected president has dismissed US President Donald Trump’s calls for the region to isolate Tehran. Peace in the Middle East could only be possible with Iran at the table, Rouhani said.

Iran Präsident Hassan Rohani (Getty Images/AFP/A. Kenare)

At a press conference on Monday, Iran’s newly re-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, dismissed US President Donald Trump’s weekend summit with Arab leaders, describing it as “just a show with no practical or political value of any kind.”

Countering Trump’s calls to isolate the Islamic Republic, Rouhani stressed that peace in the Middle East could not be achieved without Tehran’s help.

Read more: Trump calls for global coalition against terrorism, ‘isolation’ of Iran

“Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran?” Rouhani said. “Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran?”

Watch video01:28

Trump in Saudi Arabia – Alexandra von Nahmen reports from Riyadh

In his speech on Islamic extremism on Sunday, Trump also singled out Tehran as an agent of terrorism.

“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” the US president said. “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it.”

Despite Trump’s confrontational rhetoric, Iran had nothing to do with the terror attacks on the US in September 2001, or subsequent attacks in Europe – including Germany, France and England.

When asked how he forsaw his country’s relations with the US, Rouhani said he hoped the Trump administration would “settle down” and try to understand his nation better.

Read more: Trump under scrutiny in Saudi Arabia after negative remarks on Muslims

“The Americans do not know our region, that’s what the catch is,” he said. “Those who provide consultations or advice to the Americans, unfortunately, they are the rulers who either push America awry or with money, they just buy some people in America.”

Tehran vows to continue ballistic missile tests

Rouhani also dismissed the US and Saudi governments’ $110 billion dollar arms deal, saying: “You can’t solve terrorism just by giving your people’s money to a superpower.”

The White House said the deal would support the long-term security of the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats.

However, while Rouhani’s greatest political achievement to date has perhaps been the 2015 agreement with six major powers, including the US, to curbing Iran’s nuclear program, the Iranian president insisted that ballistic missile tests would continue “if technically necessary.”

Rouhani said that Iran’s missiles were “for our defense and for peace, they are not offensive,” adding that he would not need permission from the US to conduct such tests.

Iran wants ‘more democracy and interaction with the world’

Rouhani won this week’s Iranian presidential election with a resounding majority, a sign that most Iranians wish to keep on the president’s course of reform and modernization.

“The Iranian people voted for moderation as they know a prosperous economy and jobs can only happen through investment, and investment through freedom and interaction with the world,” he said as he began his second term as president.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers was expected to open up the country to the world once again, but progress has proven slow. Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to tear up the deal.

dm/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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Tehran after the election: A night to remember

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Trump, in speech to Muslim leaders, calls for shutting down terror funding

President Trump Sunday in a highly-anticipated speech to Muslim leaders during his first foreign trip called for unity between the U.S. and Middle Eastern nations in the fight to “stamp out extremism.”

During his second day of his first trip abroad, Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia addressed the leaders of more than 50 Muslim-majority countries to challenge extremism by cutting off the financing of terrorist groups.

Trump announced the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which is committed to prosecuting the financing of terrorism.

“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God,” Trump said.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump added, noting terrorists must be condemned not rewarded. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.”

The council comprises Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will sign the memorandum of understanding in Riyadh, according to Reuters.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” the president added, noting the U.S. is prepared to stand with Middle Eastern nations  in pursuit of common security.

The president has been enthusiastically embraced in Riyadh, where the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia has welcomed his aggressive stance on Iran, its regional foe.

According to The Associated Press, Trump slammed Iran for spreading “destruction and chaos” throughout the region. His comments were echoed by Saudi King Salman, who declared, “The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism.”

In his first overseas trip as president, Trump also pledged to work with Saudi Arabia to bring peace to the Gulf region and forge stronger economic ties, in large part through a roughly $10 billion arms deal.

“That was a tremendous day,” Trump said shortly after signing the arms deal. “Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The arms deal is part of large, $350 billion economic packages between the ally nations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Trump Arrives in Saudi Arabia to a Warm Welcome

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Trump Arrives in Saudi Arabia

CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — With trumpets blaring, cannons booming and fighter jets streaking overhead trailed by red, white and blue contrails, President Trump arrived in the scorching heat of the Arabian desert on Saturday hoping to realign the politics and diplomacy of the Middle East by forcefully reasserting American support for Sunni Muslim countries and Israel against Iran’s Shiite-led government.

The start of Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since becoming president — coming amid the scandals and chaos engulfing his administration — was intended to be a blunt rejection of President Barack Obama’s vision for the region. Mr. Obama sought a reconciliation with Iran and negotiated a deal intended to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. As Mr. Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia, Iranians re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who sealed the nuclear deal.

Mr. Trump, whose face was plastered on billboards around the city, was greeted warmly by Saudi leaders, who had grown weary and disenchanted with Mr. Obama. They fault him for failing to intervene forcefully in the Syrian war and for what they view as tolerance of Iranian support for terrorism.

For Mr. Trump, the warm embrace by the Saudi monarchy was a welcome break from the cascade of bad news in Washington. Even as Air Force One took off from a Maryland air base on Friday afternoon, headlines revealed new details about the swiftly expanding investigation into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Questions about those headlines followed Mr. Trump across the globe, a reminder of the chaos and scandal dogging him back home. But the president at least initially resisted the temptation to deviate from his diplomatic script to address reports that he had referred to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, as “a nut job” during meetings with Russians officials in the Oval Office.

Throughout his first day as America’s top overseas ambassador, Mr. Trump posed for pictures, shook hands with his hosts and avoided his domestic turmoil. The president’s aides scheduled the trip with no news conferences and few opportunities for reporters to ask the president questions.

Mr. Trump announced a nearly $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as evidence of a renewed commitment by the United States to the security of the Persian Gulf region. The package includes precision weaponry that Mr. Obama had held up over concerns that it would be used to kill civilians in the war in neighboring Yemen, as well as an antimissile system, and the White House said in a statement that it demonstrated American “commitment to our partnership with Saudi Arabia and our Gulf partners.”

A forum bringing together American and Saudi corporate executives on Saturday also produced a series of multibillion-dollar deals. Among them: Lockheed Martin signed a $6 billion letter of intent to assemble 150 Black Hawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia, and General Electric announced a series of projects it valued at $15 billion.

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President Trump’s Schedule for His First Foreign Trip and What’s at Stake

The cities Mr. Trump will visit and what events are planned.

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During two days here, the president is set to meet with dozens of leaders from the Persian Gulf and the wider Muslim world as he seeks to shape a new Middle East coalition. His current embrace of the Gulf nations differs sharply with some of his previous remarks. In 2014, before becoming a candidate for the White House, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter: “Tell Saudi Arabia and others that we want (demand!) free oil for the next ten years or we will not protect their private Boeing 747s. Pay up!”

On Sunday, Mr. Trump is scheduled to deliver a speech that White House aides described as a call to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world to unite against extremism. One senior White House official said the president hoped to “reset” both the global fight against Islamic terrorism and his own reputation for intolerance of Muslims, which was fueled by his campaign call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” After taking office, Mr. Trump signed an executive order to temporarily block visitors from several Muslim-majority countries, but courts have blocked it pending a legal review.

Mr. Trump’s royal hosts, whose country was not among those whose citizens would be barred, have chosen to ignore that history in the interests of working with an American president who seems to share their goals and will not lecture them about repression of women or others in Saudi Arabia.

“Traditional Arab allies welcome the U.S. back because they believe it is largely on their terms: a U.S. that is clearly anti-Iran and anti-political Islam, a U.S. that de-emphasizes political reform and human rights, a U.S. that is in business mode and a White House that seems more accessible than in the past eight years,” said Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who is based in Beirut, Lebanon.

But Mr. Hokayem said Arab leaders might be in for a surprise over the long run. “There is a lot of projection and wishfulness in the Gulf view of Trump’s America,” he said. “There is plenty of inflated expectations, issue avoidance or deference and future disappointment in the cards.”

Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official who worked on the Middle East under Mr. Obama, said Mr. Trump’s goal of aligning with the Sunni states fundamentally conflicted with his desire for closer relations with Russia, which has sided with Iran in bolstering the government in Syria’s civil war. Allowing President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in Syria under Iran’s thumb is precisely the outcome the Sunni states and Israel oppose, Ms. Wittes noted.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see how either of these trajectories actually helps achieve the primary national security imperative that the United States faces in the Middle East, which is to disrupt and defeat violent terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” said Ms. Wittes, who is now at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Mr. Trump is the first sitting president to make Saudi Arabia the first stop on his first foreign trip. The visit is the first of a nine-day trip that will also take the president to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily. On Friday, Mr. Trump announced the nomination of Callista L. Gingrich, the wife of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, to be his ambassador to the Vatican.

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What Saudis Get (or Not) in $110 Billion Arms Deal With U.S.

The New York Times reporter Mark Landler details the U.S.’s 10-year, $110 billion weapons deal with the Saudis, and what it means for both sides.

By NATALIE RENEAU on Publish DateMay 19, 2017. Photo by Evan Vucci/Associated Press… Watch in Times Video »

Air Force One landed in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, after a flight from Washington that took 12 hours and 20 minutes. Aides said Mr. Trump spent most of the flight meeting with staff members, reading newspapers and working on his speech. He got very little sleep, they said.

The president and his wife, Melania, emerged from Air Force One against a stark desert backdrop on Saturday morning and were greeted on a long red carpet by King Salman, who was leaning on a cane, and other members of the Saudi royal family.

Mrs. Trump stood near her husband with her hair uncovered, as is common for visiting American first ladies. The country’s tradition is for Saudi women to cover their heads in public. (In 2015, Mr. Trump criticized Michelle Obama on Twitter for not wearing a head scarf during an official visit here. Hillary Clinton and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany also did not cover their hair during trips to the country.)

After a ceremony at the Royal Court Palace, King Salman bestowed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal, the nation’s highest honor, on the new president, draping the gold medal and chain around Mr. Trump’s neck. Later, after a luncheon, the president met with the king before signing the arms deal in an elaborate ceremony.

Previous recipients of the award include Mr. Obama and Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.

A television microphone picked up the king’s remarks to Mr. Trump. “Syria, too, used to be one of the most advanced countries,” the king said. “We used to get our professors from Syria. They served our kingdom. Unfortunately, they too brought destruction to their own country.”

“You could destroy a country in mere seconds,” the king told the president, “but it takes a lot of effort.”

Last year, Mr. Obama visited Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Salman and gulf leaders, but the king did not meet him on the airport’s tarmac. Mr. Obama’s aides later played down the king’s decision, but it was broadly portrayed in news accounts as a snub.

At the airport when he arrived, Mr. Trump and the king exchanged a brief handshake and a few pleasantries.

“Very happy to see you,” the king said.

“It’s a great honor,” Mr. Trump replied, before he was offered a bouquet of flowers from Saudi girls.

Continue reading the main story

Trump under scrutiny in Saudi Arabia after negative remarks on Muslims

US President Donald Trump, who has made several inflammatory remarks on Islam, has arrived in Saudi Arabia, home to a particularly austere form of the religion. How he deals with the topic will be watched with interest.

Watch video00:56

Trump has arrived in Saudi Arabia

As US President Donald Trump starts   his first official visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, he is being carefully watched in light of comments he has made, both during his election campaign and after gaining the presidency, that have been seen by many as hostile both to Islam and Muslims.

During his campaign, he famously pledged to close US borders to all Muslims out of security concerns.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” he told a rally in the state of South Carolina in December last year.

Read: Trump’s anti-Muslim comments spark global backlash

Muslim bans?

As president, he then introduced two travel bans for several predominantly Muslim countries for “security reasons,” though he and his administration insist that these were not “Muslim bans.”

Watch video01:02

Merkel’s statement on Trump’s travel ban

The bans, which were blocked by US courts, did not include Saudi Arabia – one of the main US allies in the Middle East – among the blacklisted countries, although 15 of the 19 men involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks were Saudi citizens.

Critics of the proposed bans have pointed out that no significant terrorist attacks have been carried out on US soil by nationals from the six countries that are listed: Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

The second attempt to put a ban in place removed Iraq from an original list of seven countries whose nationals would not have been allowed to enter the United States.

Contradictory statements

However, his comments on Islam and Muslims have often contradicted each other.

On the negative side, he told the US broadcaster CNN, “Islam hates us.” When asked whether he meant all of the religion’s 1.6 billion adherents, Trump answered: “I mean a lot of them.”

He has also frequently claimed that Muslims represented a security threat: “I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center” is just one example in which he compared Swedes favorably with Muslims.

And he drew vehement criticism even from within his own party for comments in which he seemed to suggest that the mother of a Muslim American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq had been forbidden by religious considerations from speaking at the Democratic National Convention.

Read: Trump under fire from Republicans over Khan comments

Conciliatory tones

On other occasions, however, he has said, “I love the Muslims. Great people,” and referred to the “phenomenal” people from the Muslim community he has worked with.

USA Washington Pressekonferenz Trump und Präsident Santos (Getty Images/AFP/J. Watson)Trump has also used inflammatory rhetoric with regard to Mexicans, women and many others

On his Saudi trip, Trump has said he will ask Muslim leaders “to fight hatred and extremism and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.”

The president is seen as being likely to find favor in Sunni Saudi Arabia for his tough stance on Shiite Iran. His predecessor, Barack Obama, had aroused suspicion in Gulf Arab states for what was seen by them as a lenient attitude to their regional rival.

Read: Trump in Saudi Arabia – counterterrorism and weapons deals

 

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Trump inks military deal on arrival in Saudi Arabia

The US has announced military deals worth $110 billion with Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump is at the start of an 8-day tour that takes in Jerusalem, the Vatican and European capitals.

Saudi Arabien US-Präsident Trump und König Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud unterzeichnen Verträge (Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan)

The $110 billion (around 100 billion euros) deal for Saudi purchases of US defense equipment and services was one of several deals announced during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

The military sales deal is effective immediately, with another $350 billion set of deals to kick in over the next 10 years.

“This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats,” a White House official said when announcing the deal.

The official said Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had signed a memorandum of intent “aimed to bolster the security of the kingdom and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats.”

US conglomerate General Electric also announced it had signed agreements and memorandums of understanding worth $15 billion with the oil-rich kingdom.

Trump was kept away from reporters during a busy day of meetings and ceremonies, but late in the day, he said, the deals reached would lead to “tremendous investments” in the US. He said the deals will also create “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Changing geopolitics

Russia and Iran – allies with Syria against the US-Saudi Arabia axis in the region – this year signed a large arms deal. The US-Saudi deal comes amid talk of a possible reconfiguration of Middle East alliances, and possibly global ties.

For Riyadh, the visit is an opportunity to rebuild ties with a key ally, strained under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, who Sunni Arab Gulf states suspected of a tilt towards their Shiite regional rival Iran.

US First Lady Melania Trump chats with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.US First Lady Melania Trump chats with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

No gaffes, so far

After a welcoming coffee ceremony, Trump and his entourage were brought to the royal court where the president was awarded the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor.

The streets of Riyadh were lined with US and Saudi flags and billboards featuring Trump and King Salman.

Trump is meeting the kingdom’s two powerful crown princes on Saturday, before giving a speech on Islam to leaders of Muslim countries on Sunday.

No head scarves

US first lady Melania Trump did not cover her head when she arrived on Saturday along with her husband.

Two years ago, then-citizen Trump criticized former first lady Michelle Obama’s decision to go bare-headed on a January 2015 visit with her husband.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, a senior White House adviser who is accompanying her father, also left her head uncovered.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.

Tel Aviv on the table

Trump is set to visit Israel on Monday and the occupied Palestinian territories on Tuesday. This next leg will be more complicated, despite the history of warm ties between Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A key issue will be the fate of the US embassy, which Trump signaled he would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A senior Palestinian official said on Saturday this would be a deal-breaker for the Palestinians.

“We believe that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would mean the end of the peace process,” Saeb Erekat, second-in-command of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said days ahead of Trump’s visit to the region.

Erekat added that a Palestinian state without east Jerusalem as its capital would have “no meaning.”

Watch video02:35

Will Trump move embassy to Jerusalem?

The new US ambassador to Israel David Friedman has also backed the move.

There has been no movement so far on the pledge.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed the east of the city in a move never recognized by the international community.

Iran

Trump is expected to take a harder line on Iran, where it was announced Saturday that President Hassan Rouhani had won a resounding re-election victory as voters overwhelmingly backed his efforts to reach out to the world.

Syria

At talks between the two leaders, the king was overheard lamenting the Syrian war to Trump.

“Syria too used to be one of the most advanced countries. We used to get our professors from Syria. They served our kingdom. Unfortunately, they too brought destruction to their own country. You can destroy a country in mere seconds, but it takes a lot of effort,” he said.

Trump’s response could not be heard.

Watch video00:56

Trump has arrived in Saudi Arabia

jbh/jlw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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Saudi Arabia will be razed except for Mecca & Medina if it attacks Iran – defense minister

Saudi Arabia will be razed except for Mecca & Medina if it attacks Iran – defense minister
Responding to Saudi Arabia’s latest threats to take their conflict inside Iran, Tehran said it will leave nothing standing in the kingdom except for Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina if the Saudis do anything “ignorant,” Al-Manar reports.

“We warn them against doing anything ignorant, but if they do something ignorant, we will leave nowhere untouched apart from Mecca and Medina,” Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Arabic-speaking Al-Manar channel, as cited by Reuters.

“They think they can do something because they have an air force,” he added in an apparent reference to Riyadh’s bombing of Yemen, where Iran-affiliated Houthi forces are being routinely targeted by the Saudi Air Force.

Dehghan’s comment followed unusually blunt remarks by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said on Tuesday that any struggle for influence between Riyadh and Tehran would take place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

In a rare interview broadcast on multiple Saudi TV channels, the 31-year-old prince, who was named in 2015 by his father, King Salman, as successor to the throne, outlined his vision of modern-day Iran.

Making use of sectarian terms, Prince Salman said Iran is eager “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shiite doctrine, according to AP.

When asked if there is a mere possibility to mend ties with Iran, the prince said: “How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on extremist ideology?” 

The prince, who is also in charge of the Sunni kingdom’s economy, argued that the predominantly-Shiite Iran aims to reach Mecca – the holiest site for all Muslims.

Read more

Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. © Fayez Nureldine

“We will not wait until the fight is inside Saudi Arabia and we will work so that the battle is on their side, inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia,” he threatened without elaborating.

Ties between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have been strained since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but tensions began to mount rapidly over the past few years.

Perhaps the most significant flare-up happened in January last year, when Riyadh executed Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite preacher. Massive demonstrations erupted in Tehran, with some protesters ransacking the Saudi embassy and setting it ablaze.

The next day, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran, though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was no justification for the assault.

The incident took place amid the infamous Saudi intervention in Yemen aimed at restoring the power of ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh accuses Tehran of waging a proxy war there by arming and supplying Houthi rebels, though Iran denies the allegations. According to UN estimates, the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen killed over 13,000 civilians during the two years of the conflict.

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