THE commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards accused Saudi Arabia of treachery on Monday, saying the bombing of Yemen had put the kingdom in the same camp as arch foe Israel.
The remarks, by General Mohammad Ali Jafari, are a further sign of deteriorating relations between Tehran and Riyadh, after recent heavy criticism by Iran’s supreme leader and other top officials.
As the Middle East’s foremost Sunni and Shiite powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran are increasingly seen as vying for supremacy in the region, which remains beset by conflict and political turmoil. Jafari urged Iranian officials to put aside past considerations and speak out against the kingdom, following its air strikes in Yemen.
‘Today, treacherous Saudi Arabia is stepping in the footsteps of Israel and the Zionists. This wasn’t the case in the past and right now the Islamic revolution’s opponents are becoming clearer,’ the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
A Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states launched air strikes in Yemen on March 26 against Shiite Huthi rebels, which Riyadh accuses Tehran of arming. The Huthis, who have overrun large parts of Yemen prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh, have demanded an end to the air war as a condition for resuming UN-sponsored peace talks. Saudi Arabia wants Hadi to return as president, a demand that the Huthis are resisting as they say his government was corrupt.
The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March 19. ‘Now that these attacks have taken place, reservations should be put aside,’ Jafari said. Today the Saudi dynasty is on the verge of decline and fall,’ he said, asserting that Iran was in the ascendancy. Everyday we are witnessing the strengthening of the Islamic revolution’s power and dimensions outside. Enemies and America have submitted to it.’
On April 9, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei too compared Saudi Arabia to Israel. ‘What the Saudi government is doing in Yemen resembles exactly what the Zionist regime did in Gaza. This is a massacre, a genocide,’ he said. ‘Certainly, the Saudis will suffer damage,’ Khamenei warned, without elaborating.
Saudi-led bombing raids continued Sunday, hitting the rebel-held presidential palace in Sanaa and rebel positions in the main southern city of Aden, military sources and witnesses said.
• The first troops from Saudi Arabia’s National Guard have been deployed on the border with Yemen, official media said late on Monday. They will join members of the border guard and the army who have reinforced the frontier since March 26 when a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies in Yemen.
The vanguard of National Guard troops ‘have arrived in Najran region to participate in the defence of the southern borders … so as to confront any possible threats,’ the official Saudi Press Agency said. King Salman announced on April 21 the National Guard’s mobilisation, just hours before the coalition declared an end to its air campaign dubbed ‘Operation Decisive Storm’.
Despite that declaration, the coalition has continued daily air strikes in Yemen, where Iran-backed Huthi rebels are allied with army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. They are fighting forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh with members of his government.
A diplomatic source has said that the decision to deploy the National Guard was made the week prior to King Salman’s announcement. The National Guard is led by Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. It is formed from tribes which have traditionally backed the rule of the Saudi dynasty since it spread its Sunni rule in the Arabian Peninsula.
With about 125,000 troops backed by armoured vehicles, the guard operates in parallel, and as a palace-directed counterbalance, to the Saudi army. Eight Saudi soldiers and border guards were killed in armed skirmishes along the frontier during Operation Decisive Storm. The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since late March.
• A senior Iranian official says Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen and its prevention of the delivery of the Islamic Republic’s humanitarian aid to the war-wracked country will not go unanswered.
‘We consider all options for helping the Yemeni people and immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid and transfer of the injured,’ Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Sunday.
Noting that Saudi Arabia has no right to decide for regional countries, he added that Riyadh’s military intervention in Bahrain has left hundreds of people dead and injured, and created instability and a wide gap between the government and nation in the Persian Gulf state.
‘The continuation of Saudi aggression against Yemen will have no outcome but insecurity for Saudi Arabia and for the region,’ Amir-Abdollahian said. The Iranian official added that Saudi Arabia was expected to take steps to ‘improve sustainable security in the region’ but it has become the main cause of regional instability. He expressed hope that Riyadh would reconsider its wrong approaches and play a constructive role in the region, noting, ‘Tehran has always supported dialogue between the two countries’ through diplomatic channels.
Amir-Abdollahian’s remarks came after Saudi fighter jets intercepted an Iranian airplane carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen and prevented it from entering the Yemeni airspace last Thursday. Following Riyadh’s interception of the Iranian aid flight, Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned Saudi Arabia’s chargé d’affaires in Tehran to express its protest over the move.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry official said the Saudi move came after the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) had obtained the necessary permission to fly in the Oman-Yemen route and send a plane in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in order to fly Yemeni patients back to Iran and distribute medical aid to the injured in the impoverished Arab country.
Saudi Arabia launched its air campaign against Yemen on March 26 – without a United Nations mandate – in a bid to undermine the Huthi movement’s Ansarullah fighters and to restore power to the country’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Armed militants loyal to Yemen’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, launch a rocket during reported clashes with Huthi fighters in the port city of Aden’s Breiqa district, on April 25, 2015.
On April 21, Riyadh announced the end of the first phase of its unlawful military operation, which has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people, but airstrikes have continued with Saudi bombers targeting different areas across the country.