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Ongoing Saudi-Iranian Proxy Conflict likely to worsen amid Hajj Row after last year’s stampede

University of Paris political science professor Khattar Abou Diab told VOA Saudi Arabia thinks Iran is trying to harm it as well

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Muslims During Hajj. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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The ongoing proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia appears to be worsening after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, scolded Saudi leaders over their alleged responsibility in last year’s hajj stampede. Pro-Iranian media have also been playing up recent pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias sending “volunteers” to fight Saudi coalition forces in Yemen.

Iranian state TV broadcast video Tuesday of victims from last year’s hajj stampede. Tehran says hundreds of its citizens were killed and Saudi Arabia has lied about the real number of casualties.

Hajj Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Hajj
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The television report played up blistering comments by Khamenei calling Saudi leaders “little Satans and apprentice political sorcerers who ignore God and maintain their unholy grip on power” by allying themselves with what he called the world’s arrogant nations, generally a reference to the U.S. and Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s head of security for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, General Ahmed Ahmedi, refuted the Iranian claims of Saudi negligence and insisted the kingdom does its utmost to protect visitors to the Islamic holy sites.

He said Saudi security forces take the greatest pains to serve the visitors to the holy sites and offer them the best security from their arrival to their departure.

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who lives in exile in France, told VOA the hajj pilgrimage is just one facet of the ongoing conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Propaganda, economic war

Bani Sadr said Khamenei is accusing Saudi Arabia of committing crimes against Muslims during the hajj, but added that Iran is guilty of crimes in the region. He said Iran and Saudi Arabia have tried to dominate the region, creating rival alliances from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and sowing death and destruction.

Bani Sadr stresses that there is a “propaganda war” taking place, alongside actual fighting in the battlefield, and an “economic war” that Saudi Arabia is waging against Iran by pumping excess quantities of crude to drive down prices and suffocate Iran.

University of Paris political science professor Khattar Abou Diab told VOA Saudi Arabia thinks Iran is trying to harm it as well.

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He said Saudi leaders have the impression Iran is trying to encircle it by way of its maneuvering in Yemen, Iraq, and the Gulf. He argues there is a danger of the ongoing proxy war developing into a direct conflict if world powers do not act to avert it.

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Pro-Iranian media emphasized Monday that Yemen’s Houthi rebels have developed new ballistic missile technology and are capable of striking deep into Saudi territory. Forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have fired modified SCUD rockets into Saudi territory, but it remains unclear how many they still possess. (VOA)

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Iran looking Forward To Continue Nuclear Enrichment Activity

President Donald Trump withdrew United States from the 2015 nuclear accord

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A bicyclist passes the nuclear power plant just outside Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010.
A bicyclist passes the nuclear power plant just outside Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010, VOA

Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it will resume testing of a new generation of nuclear centrifuges Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear energy agency, said Tehran would remain within the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, nuclear deal reached with the five permanent members of the United Nations plus Germany. Salehi added that the accord allowed Iran to test a new generation of nuclear centrifuges and that his country’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian purposes.

Salehi says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious edict years ago that banned nuclear weapons.

Khamenei told a group of visitors Monday that he had issued orders for the country’s Atomic Energy Organization to increase its enrichment capacity to 190,000 centrifuges, provisionally, in accordance with the JCPOA.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear accord last month. Britain, France and Germany have been attempting to salvage the deal that Trump has described as “horrible” and “one-sided.”

 

Iran's head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, attends a seminar in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 5, 2015. logo LIVE MIDDLE EAST Iran Prepares to Resume Nuclear Enrichment Activity June 06, 2018 1:16 PM Edward Yeranian FILE: A bicyclist passes the nuclear power plant just outside Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010. FILE: A bicyclist passes the nuclear power plant just outside Bushehr, Iran, Oct. 26, 2010. Share See comments CAIRO — Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency it will resume testing of a new generation of nuclear centrifuges Wednesday. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear energy agency, said Tehran would remain within the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, nuclear deal reached with the five permanent members of the United Nations plus Germany. Salehi added that the accord allowed Iran to test a new generation of nuclear centrifuges and that his country's nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian purposes. Salehi says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious edict years ago that banned nuclear weapons. FILE - Iran's head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, attends a seminar in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 5, 2015. FILE - Iran's head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, attends a seminar in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 5, 2015. Khamenei told a group of visitors Monday that he had issued orders for the country's Atomic Energy Organization to increase its enrichment capacity to 190,000 centrifuges, provisionally, in accordance with the JCPOA. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear accord last month. Britain, France and Germany have been attempting to salvage the deal that Trump has described as "horrible" and "one-sided." Former Iranian President Abolha
Iran’s head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, attends a seminar in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 5, 2015. VOA

 

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr told VOA he thinks Khamenei’s decision to resume nuclear enrichment capacity is “not a well-thought out move,” and that it is having negative consequences on regional interests.

According to Bani Sadr, the decision strengthens Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s charge that Iran represents a threat to Israel and must evacuate its forces from Syria, as requested by the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi axis.

In addition, said Bani Sadr, Khamenei’s statement that Israel will be “eradicated from the face of the Earth” negatively influences public opinion against Tehran.

Khattar Abou Diab, a political science professor at the University of Paris, tells VOA that Khamenei’s decision was aimed at pressuring Europe into gaining concessions from the United States. While France’s foreign minister spoke of “red lines” that Iran must not cross, Paris, Berlin and London have asked to be exempted from new economic sanctions Trump imposed on Iran.

Also read: Israel warn Iran hints war Middle East

  • Abou Diab argues that despite Iran’s bluster, it “fears any eventual reaction or backlash from Washington.” (VOA)