Saudis don't want war with Iran but will act if provoked: Official

An F/A-18E Super Hornet shown here being launched from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea last Thursday in a US Navy photo. Tensions in the Gulf have escalated significantly in recent weeks aft
An F/A-18E Super Hornet shown here being launched from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea last Thursday in a US Navy photo. Tensions in the Gulf have escalated significantly in recent weeks after the US accelerated the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and moved B-52 bombers to the region. PHOTO: REUTERS

Kingdom links series of terrorist attacks to Teheran amid rising tensions in the Gulf

RIYADH • Saudi Arabia does not want a war with Iran but will respond "with strength and determination" if Iran decides to start one, a top Saudi official said yesterday.

"We don't want a war in any way, but at the same time, we won't allow Iran to continue its hostile policies towards the kingdom," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh. "We want peace and stability."

The commander of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Hossein Salami, said his country is not looking for war but is not afraid of a confrontation, either. Recent incidents have "made the extent of the enemy's strength clear", he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Tensions in the Gulf have escalated significantly in recent weeks after the US accelerated the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and moved B-52 bombers to the region.

It cited intelligence reports of unspecified threats from Iran that have been disputed by some key allies.

On May 13, several ships, including two Saudi vessels, were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates as they made their way towards the Strait of Hormuz, the world's foremost oil shipping choke point.

Mr Al-Jubeir began his press conference - called suddenly after midnight - by listing a series of terrorist attacks in which he said Iran had played a role over the past few decades.

CALLING TEHERAN TO ACCOUNT

We won't stand with our hands bound.

The ball is in Iran's court and Iran should determine what the path will be.

SAUDI MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADEL AL-JUBEIR

The Iranian government "is not looking for stability or security in the region", he said, adding that Yemen's Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, had launched more than 200 missiles into Saudi Arabia over the past few years.

The Houthis also were behind a drone attack on Saudi oil installations last week, in which the drones were supplied by Iran, he claimed.

The assaults on the two Aramco oil-pumping stations forced the temporary closure of an important east-west pipeline in the kingdom and added to growing friction in the Gulf, where the US has tightened sanctions against Iran, demanding it stop supporting militias across the Middle East, including the Houthis.

The Saudi pipeline has since reopened, but officials from all sides have warned that recent events have left the region at risk of sliding into a potentially devastating international conflict.

"We won't stand with our hands bound," Mr Al-Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran's court and Iran should determine what the path will be."

The UAE and other countries are still investigating the attacks on the ships, Mr Al-Jubeir added.

 
 
 

"We have some indications and we will make the announcements once the investigations are complete," he said.

Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has called on the Gulf Cooperation Council members and Arab countries to hold emergency meetings on May 30 over the recent attacks, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The attacks have dangerous implications on oil supplies and the stability of global oil markets, and could harm regional and global security, the ministry said.

Asked about recent accusations that Norwegian intelligence had warned an Arab activist in Oslo, Iyad Al-Baghdadi, about a potential threat to him from Saudi Arabia, Mr Al-Jubeir said he had not heard of Mr Al-Baghdadi.

"It might be his goal to get permanent residency in a certain country, but we don't have any information on him," Mr Al-Jubeir said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline 'Saudis don't want war with Iran but will act if provoked: Official'. Print Edition | Subscribe