Arab foreign ministers meet at the request of Saudi Arabia, in Cairo, Egypt, November 19, 2017 © Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
Saudi Arabia urged fellow Arab League nations to find a “non-compromise” solution to deal with “Iran’s aggression” and “disregard for international law” during a specially-summoned foreign ministers’ meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
“We will not stand idly by in the face of Iran’s aggression,” Riyadh’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said in public remarks to the assembled officials.
The Saudi official accused Tehran of “meddling” in various Middle Eastern states, particularly focusing on the Houthi faction in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Iran created agents in the region, such as the Houthi and Hezbollah militias, in total disregard for all international principles,” said al-Jubeir.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir © Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
The minister, a long-time ambassador to the US appointed as foreign minister two years ago, said that 80 Iran-manufactured missiles had been launched from Yemen since the conflict broke out in the country in March 2015.
“Showing leniency toward Iran will not leave any Arab capital safe from those ballistic missiles,” he said, in reference to the failed missile attack on Riyadh from Yemen earlier this month, which the Saudis believe was ordered by Tehran.
Earlier, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, which comprises 22 Sunni-dominated states in the Middle East and North Africa, made similar remarks, accusing Iran of fomenting sectarianism, and developing potentially destabilizing missile technology.
“We say it in clear terms that Iranian threats have exceeded all boundaries and are pushing the region toward the abyss,” said Aboul-Gheit.
In a resolution published after the one-day summit wrapped up, the Arab League said that it “does not intend to declare war against Iran for the moment” but warned that “Saudi Arabia has the right to defend its territory.”
Notably, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil skipped the meeting, and reports in the local media suggested that the country did not want to be made a prominent part of the Arab League declaration.
As several of the speakers in Cairo noted, Lebanon has become a key flashpoint between Saudi and Iranian interests, particularly since the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh earlier this month, which many believed was a direct result of Saudi pressure.
The House of Saud has been losing ground in the multi-religious Mediterranean state, and the Bahraini foreign minister at the Arab League summit called Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia “Iran’s longest arm in the region.”
Riyadh is also involved in an increasingly intractable proxy war in Yemen, where millions have been affected by a Saudi-led blockade, and its affiliated factions have failed to topple President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Unsurprisingly, any Saudi-penned proposals are likely to fall on deaf ears in Tehran, with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accusing Saudi Arabia of “warmongering” and “sowing discord” during a different summit with Turkey and Russia in Antalya.