Saudi Arabia wants to avert war in the region but stands ready to respond with “all strength and determination” following last week’s attacks on Saudi oil assets, a senior official said on Sunday, adding that the ball was now in Iran’s court. Riyadh has accused Tehran of ordering Tuesday’s drone strikes on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom, claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group. The attack came two days after four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Iran has denied it was behind the attacks which come as Washington and the Islamic Republic spar over sanctions and the U.S. military presence in the region, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region nor does it seek that,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference. “It will do what it can to prevent this war and at the same time it reaffirms that in the event the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with all force and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests.” Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday invited Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss implications of the attacks. “The current critical circumstances entail a unified Arab and Gulf stance toward the besetting challenges and risks,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement. Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim
“Those who disregard norms and think they can do whatever they want in cyberspace should know that, sooner or later, the hands of the law will catch up with them,” General Mohsen Karimi, a Guards commander in the central city of Arak was quoted as saying, without saying how many people had been arrested.
Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday dismissed the possibility of war erupting in the region, saying Tehran did not want a conflict and that no country had the “illusion it can confront Iran”, the state news agency IRNA reported. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf. “There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA before ending a visit to Beijing. President Donald Trump has bolstered economic sanctions and built up U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described those steps as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”. “The fact is that Trump has officially said and reiterated again that he does not want a war, but people around him are pushing for war on the pretext that they want to make America stronger against Iran,” Zarif said. He told Reuters last month that Trump could be lured into a conflict by the likes of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk. REGIONAL TENSIONS In a sign of the heightened tension across the region, Exxon Mobil evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield in neighbouring Iraq after days of sabre rattling between Washington
The British Council has confirmed one of its employees has been convicted and jailed in Iran for espionage charges. Head of the British cultural organization Ciarán Devane said in a statement on Tuesday that Aras Amiri, a 32-year-old employee of the London-based Council, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran more than a year after she was arrested in the country for espionage. The statement came a day after a senior Iranian judiciary official said an Iranian woman had been convicted after she was found guilty of spying for Britain. Gholamhossein Esmaili, who serves as the spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, said the unidentified woman had been “cooperating with Britain’s foreign intelligence service,” while working for the Iran Desk at the British Council. Esmaili said the woman had made “clear confessions” about her recruitment and “the instructions that the English security agency had given her.” “The person was involved in contacting theater and art groups to implement cultural infiltration projects,” said the official, adding that the woman had repeatedly traveled to Iran under aliases. The British council, however, denied espionage charges against Amiri. The agency said it will remain in contact with Britain’s foreign ministry to pursue the issue. “We firmly refute the accusation levied against her,” Devane said, adding, “The British Council does not do any work in Iran and Aras did not travel to Iran for work.” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also reacted to the news of the jail sentences for Amiri, saying late
The United States’ military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now it is an opportunity, a senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). The U.S. military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East to counter what U.S. officials have said are “clear indications” of threats from Iran to its forces there. The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month. “An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now…the threats have switched to opportunities,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division said. He added, “If (the Americans) make a move we will hit them in the head.” The commander of the Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said in a parliament session on Sunday that the United States has started a psychological war in the region, according to a parliamentary spokesman. “Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,” said Behrouz Nemati in a summary of the Salami’s comments, according to parliament’s ICANA news site. Salami was appointed head of the Guards last month. Separately, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet on
“Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,” the spokesman for the parliamentary leadership, Behrouz Nemati, said, summarizing the Guards’ commander’s comments, according to parliament’s ICANA news site.
Iran has dismissed the new U.S. deployments, including of an aircraft carrier, as old news announced now to intimidate it through “psychological warfare”, at a time when Washington is also tightening financial sanctions. The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.