Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said on Thursday the kingdom’s actions in the Middle East were a response to what he called the “aggression” of Iran. Long-standing arch-rivals, Riyadh and Tehran are waging a contest for power on several fronts across the region, notably in Yemen and Lebanon, Reuters reports.
“Any way you look at it, they (the Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to let you do this anymore’”, Jubeir told Reuters in an interview.
He said Saudi Arabia was consulting its allies about what leverage to use against Lebanese Shi‘ite militant group Hezbollah – an Iranian ally – to end its dominance in the small Mediterranean nation and intervention in other countries.
“We will make the decision when the time comes,” he said, declining to detail what options were under consideration.
Jubeir said Hezbollah, which he described as a subsidiary of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, must disarm and become a political party for Lebanon to stabilize.
“Whenever we see a problem, we see Hezbollah act as an arm or agent of Iran and this has to come to an end,” he said after meeting his French counterpart in Riyadh.
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power less than three years ago, Riyadh has struck a more aggressive posture towards Iran, launching a war in Yemen, leading a boycott of neighboring Qatar in part for allegedly cozying up to Tehran, and ratcheting up its rhetoric against Hezbollah.
Saad al-Hariri, a Saudi ally, resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister on Nov. 4, citing an assassination plot and accusing Iran and Hezbollah of sowing strife in the region. Lebanese officials say Hariri had come under pressure from Riyadh, which they accuse of holding him captive despite his denials. Hariri said on Thursday he would visit Paris “very soon” and is expected to then return to Lebanon. Jubeir repeated Saudi denials that Riyadh had forced Hariri to resign or held him against his will.
“He’s a free man, he can do whatever he wants,” Jubeir said.
Asked if Saudi wanted Hariri to withdraw his resignation, Jubeir said that “That is his decision to make.” Saudi’s top diplomat said reigning in Hezbollah was the priority and the “facade” that the group needed to hold on to its weapons should be exposed.
In Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is involved in a two-year-old war and has been criticized for blocking humanitarian aid, Jubeir accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of besieging civilian areas and preventing supplies from coming in or out.
“That’s why you have the starvation that’s taking place in Yemen and people need to do a more serious job of holding Houthis accountable for this,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in a 2-1/2-year-old war. The kingdom has been criticized for killing civilians in airstrikes there and blocking humanitarian aid.
A military coalition led by the kingdom has enforced a near-blockade on Yemen, which aid agencies say has contributed to unleashing famine and disease in the already impoverished country. It closed all air, land and sea access on November 6 following the interception of a missile fired towards Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has since said that aid can go through “liberated ports” but not Houthi-controlled Hodeidah, the conduit for the vast bulk of imports into Yemen.
Jubeir said domestic anti-corruption investigations which have netted senior princes, officials, and businessmen in the past two weeks were ongoing. He rejected as “nonsense” criticisms the campaign fell foul of the law.
“Those who are guilty are likely to be referred to the courts and they will have fair and transparent trials,” he said.