Turning up the heat in an already tense standoff, several Iranian officials on Tuesday renewed accusations against Saudi Arabia, suggesting that the Persian Gulf kingdom was behind last week’s twin terrorist attacks in Tehran. Iran’s most influential military figure, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, told the semiofficial Fars news agency that Iran had “precise information” that Saudi Arabia “has asked terrorists to carry out operations in Iran.” He offered no further details. The deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeria, a hard-liner, made similar assertions against Saudi Arabia, accusing the Saudis of “governmental terrorism.” Other officials have echoed those remarks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday called for a permanent mechanism in the Gulf to resolve crises like the blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies. Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of an annual peace mediation in Oslo, Zarif also said Saudi Arabia supported militants inside Iran. "It is absolutely imperative for our region not to only to resolve this particular conflict or dispute between our southern neighbours in the Persian Gulf through dialogue but in fact establish a permanent mechanism for consultation, conversation and conflict resolution in our region," Zarif said. He said this could be along the lines of the 1975 Helsinki accords -- agreements signed during the Cold War to reduce tensions between western and Communist nations. "I think if it worked at the height of the Cold War here in Europe, it should work," Zarif said. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing the small but oil-rich emirate of supporting "terrorism" and being too close to Iran, which is Riyadh's regional rival.
The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said new reliable intelligence has been obtained by the IRGC that reconfirms Saudi Arabia ordered the self-styled Islamic State to carry out last week’s terror attacks in Tehran that cut short scores of innocent lives. “The US and the Zionist regime [of Israel] have backed the terrorists and we have precise information that Saudi Arabia not only supports them but has demanded that they conduct the operations inside Iran,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by Fars News Agency as saying on Monday. The senior commander did not provide details. Suicide bombers and gunmen struck Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, last Wednesday, killing 17 and wounding dozens more. Iran has been a leading player in the campaign to oust IS militants from large swaths of Syria and Iraq, which the terrorist group overran in 2014. Saudi rulers’ involvement in the deadly terrorist act was previously publically raised in an IRGC statement and in remarks by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran’s supreme leader has forbidden the government of President Hassan Rouhani from implementing any part of UNESCO’s non-binding 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into the country’s educational system. “Some say they have altered this document and won’t carry out any part that’s unacceptable,” said Khamenei on June 8, 2017, indirectly referring to Rouhani. “However, that’s not the issue.” The supreme leader added that the Education 2030 Framework for Action shouldn’t be implemented “even if we assume, wrongly, that there’s nothing in this document that’s blatantly anti-Islamic.” Continued Khamenei: “I’m saying that our national education policy should not be written from abroad… Whether it has anything against Islam or not, it doesn’t matter. This is Iran. This is the Islamic Republic. This is a great nation. Why should a few people at UNESCO or the United Nations write our education policy? This has to do with our independence.”
OPINION & ANALYSIS
The diplomatic crisis that has seen Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab Gulf states sever diplomatic ties with Qatar rages on. Qatar, which has long sponsored terrorist groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, now faces an embargo by the Gulf states that risks cutting the country off from most of its trade routes and food supplies. The Gulf states, as well as President Trump, are giving the Qataris a sort of ultimatum: clean up your act or face isolation. This ostracization is also because of Qatar’s long-standing relationship with Iran, another state-sponsor of terrorism. Trump’s backing of the Gulf states is emblematic of his attempt to pivot the United States away from Iran and back toward Saudi Arabia, while the diplomatic crisis itself reveals a fundamental tension between two competing visions for the Middle East among the U.S. foreign policy apparatus.
After establishing the Iran nuclear deal as his first-term legacy, the question now is what new initiative will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embark on during his second term? Should the international community have any expectations of Rouhani? And if Rouhani has the will to bring about any change in, for example, Syria, a big if, will it be for the better good of the Syrian people and the region? Or will he be merely looking to promote Tehran’s interests at the expense of others. Iran’s policies in the region are considered by many to be based on double standards. How does Iran legitimize its interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the region while millions have been left killed, injured and displaced as the entire Middle East remains in turmoil?