After Saudi Arabia threatened to attack Iran, Tehran said it will retaliate if the Saudis “do anything ignorant”. The country’s defense minister said Sunday that Iran would leave “no area untouched” with the exception of Mecca and other Islamic holy places.
Iran and Saudi Arabia Get in Heated Exchange
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said its neighbor is talking tough because it has its own air force. The minister was likely hinting at Yemen, where Saudi fighter jets have conducted a series of air strikes on Iran-backed forces in the capital Sanaa.
The Iranian official made the remarks in response to Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s comments earlier last week. On Tuesday, the Saudi leader said the in-fight between the Sunnis and Shia should happen “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia”.
The two countries are seeking to gain more influence across the Middle East as they back rival groups in Syria. The Saudis accuse Iran of supporting financially and logistically fighters that oppose Riyadh. Iran has so far dismissed allegations as false.
In an unexpected move, Prince Mohammed made the comments on a national television Tuesday. The leader said there is no room for diplomacy between his country and Iran as the latter is trying to dominate the entire Muslim world.
The prince added that his country is the “main goal” for Tehran. He pledged to not stay and watch the fight move into his country. “But we will work to have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi leader added.
The U.S. Backing the Saudis
Meanwhile, the first foreign country U.S. President Donald Trump will visit will be Saudi Arabia. The White House praised the Muslim country for its commitment to its pledge to offer stability in the region.
Currently, the Saudi-led Gulf countries represent the U.S. most reliable allies against terrorism in the Middle East. Iran, ISIS and Al-Qaeda have longtime targeted these gulf monarchies mainly on religious grounds. Iran is currently a Shia theocracy while Al-Qaeda and ISIS dream of a Sunni caliphate.
Iran and the said terrorist groups want to control Saudi Arabia because it is the home of two of Islam’s most sacred worship places: Mecca and Medina. Iran and ISIS are also interested in the Saudis’ oil fields, which could help them buy better weapons and expand their influence in the Middle East.
The Saudi prince warned that his country is the primary target of Iran and its allies. Saudi Arabia along with five other Gulf monarchies – Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar – are the primary defense line against Islamic terrorists in the region. These countries heavily support Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan that would be likely overcome without the Saudi and American support.
This may be why the Trump administration is currently trying to push through a billions-dollar arms sale deal with the Saudis even though the arrangement does not benefit the U.S. at all.
Image Source: Kremlin.ru