Saudi Arabia moves a step closer to war with Iran

Saudi Arabia has moved a step closer to a war with Iran by accusing the country again of ‘direct military aggression’ by supplying militias with rockets.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the accusation today, referring to Iran handing ballistic missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels, state media reported.

But Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels hit back with threats of retaliation against the ports and airports of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which this week closed the Yemeni land, sea and air borders.

All airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be a direct target of our weapons, which is a legitimate right,’ read a statement released by the rebels’ political office.

Tensions have been rising between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shiite Iran, which are locked in conflicts across the Middle East, from Yemen and Syria to Qatar and Lebanon.

The crisis escalated on Saturday when the kingdom intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile near Riyadh’s international airport.

The Huthi’s statement comes the day after the coalition announced it had closed all of Yemen’s borders, after the missile attach which the Huthis have claimed.

The United Nations on Monday reported the Saudi-led coalition had prevented two humanitarian aid flights from flying to the war-torn country.

Prince Mohammed said: ‘The involvement of Iran in supplying missiles to the Huthis is a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,’ the Saudi Press Agency quoted the crown prince as saying during a telephone conversation with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

This ‘could be considered as an act of war,’ Prince Mohammed said.

Saudi forces on Saturday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile near Riyadh international airport, reportedly fired from Yemen by the Huthi rebels.

It was the first reported Huthi missile launch to reach Riyadh and threaten air traffic, underscoring the growing threat posed by the conflict on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

Riyadh accused Tehran of supplying ballistic missiles to the Huthi rebels, but Iran denied the allegation.

Yesterday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also warned Tehran: ‘Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighbouring countries and affect international peace and security.

‘We will not allow any infringement on our national security.’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued dismissive tweets over the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in response.

He wrote: ‘KSA bombs Yemen to smithereens, killing 1000s of innocents including babies, spreads cholera and famine, but of course blames Iran.

Yesterday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (pictured) also warned Tehran will 'not allow any infringement on national security'

‘KSA is engaged in wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilising behaviour & risky provocations. It blames Iran for the consequences.’

Saudi forces on Saturday intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile near Riyadh’s international airport after it was reportedly fired by Shiite Huthi rebels from Yemen.

It was the first attempted missile strike by the rebels to reach Riyadh and threaten air traffic, underscoring the growing threat posed by the conflict on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

The coalition sealed off air, sea and land borders in Yemen where it has been battling rebels in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government since 2015.

An Iranian foreign ministry statement quoted spokesman Bahram Ghassemi as saying the accusations by the coalition were ‘unjust, irresponsible, destructive and provocative’.

Ghassemi said the missile was fired by the Huthis in response ‘to war crimes and several years of aggression by the Saudis’.

The missile attack, he said, was ‘an independent action in response to this aggression,’ and Iran had nothing to do with it.

Critics have accused the coalition of not doing enough to prevent civilian deaths in its air war in Yemen, where more than 8,650 people have been killed since the intervention began.

Repeated attempts to bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict have failed, including a series of UN-backed peace talks.

Saudi Arabia has blamed the Huthis for the failed efforts, and on Monday offered rewards totalling $440 million for information on 40 senior officials among the rebels.

Topping the list, with a $30-million reward for tips leading to his capture, was the group’s leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi.

The Huthis, allied with Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the conflict, have captured the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi’s government to operate from the southern city of Aden.

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The Islamic State’s dream of a Middle East caliphate may be over, but Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite powerhouse Iran continue to worsen conflicts across the region as they battle to reign supreme.

LEBANON

The resignation of Lebanon’s Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri has thrust Lebanon back onto the front line of the Middle East’s most biting rivalry, pitting a mostly Sunni bloc led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE against Shiite Iran and its allies.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim leader, had faced the seemingly impossible task of presiding over a government under the control of Iran-backed Hezbollah. The Shiite militant party is accused of killing his father, Rafik, in 2005 and in his resignation speech on Saturday he suggested he now fears for his own life.

Hezbollah supporters carry a poster of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah during a Hezbollah 'victory over Israel' rally, in Beirut's suburbs, Friday, 22 September 2006

But he was known to tow the Saudi line and his shock resignation suggests Saudi Arabia may have a new plan of action for the country.

The kingdom had long backed the Sunnis in Lebanon’s multi-sectarian political system – and during the civil war – but on Monday it accused the tiny Arab country of declaring war against it because of aggression by Hezbollah.

The statement comes as the civil war in neighbouring Syria, where Hezbollah had been ensuring President Bashar Assad’s regime was not toppled by a pro-democracy movement, winds down.

Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, warned just last month that Saudi Arabia was seeking ways to compensate for the loss of Syria as a place where it could defy and bleed Iran. ‘A renewed desire to reverse their regional fortunes could lead them to try regaining a foothold in Lebanon,’ he wrote.

Hezbollah is returning its energy to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia only wants a leader in the country if it can withstand Hezbollah’s pressure.

It’s believed they did not see Hariri as the man for that job.

SYRIA

In Syria the civil war is not completely over but Iran and its allies are seen to have won the proxy war against Saudi-backed rebels.

Hezbollah and other fighters allied with Assad’s forces have recaptured large areas and are working to secure a much-prized land corridor stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Pro-government demonstrators hold posters depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and placards, during a rally  in Damascus, in 2012Pro-government demonstrators hold posters depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and placards, during a rally in Damascus, in 2012
A Syrian man carries a baby after removing him from the rubble of a destroyed building following a reported air strike in the then rebel-held part of Aleppo in 2016

 

By contrast, Saudi Arabia has been stuck in a fruitless war in Yemen against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels, and a Saudi bid to isolate Qatar has failed to achieve its goals.

YEMEN

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, and his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), have this week made clear their intention to continue to fight against Iran in Yemen.

Riyadh and Tehran have been trading fierce accusations over their involvement in the country, where they back opposing sides.

In the latest flare-up Saudi Arabia said an intercepted missile attack on the country, allegedly by Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, ‘may amount to an act of war’.

People walk at the site of an air strike in the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen, on November 1

 

MBS said on Tuesday that Iran’s decision to supply rockets to militias in Yemen constitutes a ‘direct military aggression’ against the kingdom.

Tehran in turn accused Riyadh of committing war crimes in Yemen, raising tensions further.

And Hezbollah and the Houthis, as Yemen’s Shiite rebels are known, have denied any role by the Lebanese group in the war in the Arabian Peninsula country.

ISRAEL

The resignation of Lebanon’s Hariri also has significant implications for Israel, Daniel Shapiro, President Obama’s Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said in a column for Haaretz newspaper this week.

‘It is plausible that the Saudis are trying to create the context for a different means of contesting Iran in Lebanon: an Israeli-Hezbollah war,’ he wrote.

Shapiro suggests Saudi may have pulled Hariri out of his office to leave Hezbollah ‘with the blame and responsibility for… caring for Syrian refugees to mopping up Al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates’.

This could lead Hezbollah to confront Israel as means of securing support from its people in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have become unlikely allies. Their common ground? Stopping nuclear Iran reigning supreme in the region.

For Israel, partnering with Saudi-Arabia to quash Hezbollah would be considered key to helping them deal with an old enemy.

QATAR

Saudi Arabia’s bid to isolate Qatar appears to have been fruitless.

Instead of bringing the world’s wealthiest nation back into its folds by forcing it into a diplomatic corner, Doha has forcefully rejected all Saudi demands.

Most importantly, Qatar has refused to curtail relations with Iran, with whom it shares the world’s largest reservoir of natural gas.

Iran and Turkey have helped Qatar survive amid Saudi and its Gulf allies suffocating sanctions and thus Tehran has scored another goal in the cold war dominating the political landscape in the Middle East.

NEW PROXY WARS ON THE HORIZON?

With all the above perceived losses against Iran that Saudi Arabia has felt in Syria and Qatar, it is no wonder that Riyadh’s patience over Hezbollah is running thin and Lebanon is in its sights.

Source – Mail Online

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