Iran has accused the United States of being responsible for “atrocities” in Yemen through its support for Saudi Arabia, which has backed the Yemeni government in the country’s three-year civil war, IRNA reports.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said on November 26 that a recent White House statement in support of Riyadh and a Saudi-led coalition fighting against Shi’ite Yemeni rebels “clearly and without question proves America’s participation and responsibility” in what Tehran described as “atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”
In its November 24 statement, the White House said it was “committed to supporting Saudi Arabia and all our Gulf partners against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law.”
Ghassemi denied that Iran has “any military connection with Yemen.”
Iran is ruled by conservative Shi’ite clerics while Tehran’s archrival in the region, Saudi Arabia, is a Sunni Muslim majority kingdom. The two Persian Gulf states back opposing sides in conflicts from Yemen to Syria. Tensions spiked recently between Tehran and Riyadh after Shi’ite Huthi rebels allied with Iran launched a thwarted ballistic missile attack on the capital of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Tehran of “direct aggression” after the missile was intercepted on November 4 before it hit any targets. Iran denied involvement in the attack. Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler also called the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “the new Hitler of the Middle East” in an interview with the New York Times published on November 23.
Ghassemi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, on November 24 accused the Saudi Crown Prince of “immature, inconsiderate, and baseless remarks and behavior.”
“The mistakes made by the adventurist Saudi Crown Prince, including his latest scandalous interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon which used to be the traditional ally of Saudi Arabia, have put the kingdom in deep trouble. Now that bin Salman has begun to follow in the footsteps of the notorious dictators of the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran seriously advises him to think more about their doomed fates over the recent years,” he said.
Tehran and Riyadh cut diplomatic relations in January 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic missions in reaction to Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric.
Relations between the two powers have become increasingly strained. Earlier this month, the prince blamed Iran for a missile attack aimed at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, by rebels in neighbouring Yemen. He said the attack might be considered an act of war. Iran denied it was involved.
Sunni-Muslim majority Saudi Arabia and Shia Muslim-led Iran are at loggerheads across the Middle East. The Saudis accuse Iran of helping Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting a war since 2015. Iran and the rebels deny the charge.
The ongoing battle between the Saudis and Iranians is not merely geopolitical but also ideological. Saudi Arabia adheres to Sunni Muslim beliefs while Iran is led by Shiites. Each angles to be the predominant power in the region with other proxy wars in Qatar and Syria.
The deeply religious turf battle has gone on for decades, with the Saudis and many others across the globe considering Hezbollah to be Iran’s main arm for terrorism across the Middle East.