Rouhani takes on Saudis

Rouhani takes on Saudis
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has blamed Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen Civil War as the reason behind tepid relations between Tehran and Riyadh. The President has also..

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has blamed Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen Civil War as the reason behind tepid relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

The President has also accused Saudi Arabia of sponsoring terrorists in the war.

Background

Iran and Saudi Arabia have never had friendly relations. After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the relationship further soured between the two. The reformist pro-Western government in Iran had been replaced by leaders who were strong proponents of Shia Islam.

The two nations have fought a number of proxy wars and in 1987 Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with Iran for three years. Both countries are rich in oil reserves and are competing to broaden their influence in West Asia.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran indefinitely. Saudi Arabia’s Embassy was attacked in Tehran during protests against executions in the kingdom. Iran then accused Saudi Arabia for orchestrating deadly twin attacks on June 7, 2017.

Analysis

A UN report in 2015 claimed that Iran was providing military arms and other support to the Houthi insurgents at the heart of the Yemeni civil war. The full extent of Iran’s connection to the Houthis has been subjected to much debate. Saudi Arabia was threatened that this was Iran’s method of exerting influence in the region. In March 2015, a Saudi led a coalition of Arab states to intervene. This included airstrikes on the Saada city in Yemen.

Rouhani’s remarks on Saudi Arabia was televised on state TV. He said, “Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and their support of terrorists in Yemen and Syria are main hurdles to improve ties between Tehran and Riyadh. Saudi Arabia should stop backing terrorists.”

Recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that delegates from Saudi Arabia and Iran would soon engage in diplomatic talks and visits.

Rouhani also made pointed remarks at USA regarding the nuclear deal. He said that despite Trump’s efforts to kill the deal, EU and the International Atomic Energy would ensure that the deal would not fall through. Undermining the US, he said, “The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is very unlikely to accept America’s demand to inspect our military sites. As you know, the EU’s stance on the JCPOA is clear; all 28 countries in the bloc have announced that they are committed to the nuclear agreement.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that Iran is sending clear signals to the world that the blame for the conflict in Yemen lies squarely with the Saudis. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, where they support rival groups in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. It is reported that Qatar has opened an embassy in Tehran, which affirms the new strategic partnership between a Sunni majority Qatar and a Shia led Iran.

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