Speaking alongside US National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called for the overthrow of the Iranian government, saying the Islamic Republic was unlikely to change on its own volition.
“Unless the pressure internally is extremely intense, I don’t believe they will open up,” al-Jubeir said at the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) conference in New York City, which was attended by states that opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
“How can we negotiate with a state that wants to kill us,” Jubeir said in remarks carried by UAE newspaper The National.
Saudi and Emirati officials welcomed Washington’s decision to abandon the 2015 Iran deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, it reported.
But Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, said external pressure was needed and would be key in changing Iran’s course.
“I think any recalibration of Iranian foreign policy will come from external policy,” said Otaiba, who added the isolation of Tehran must be backed up by European powers, Asian nations, as well as the United States.
“If a missile is launched at Saudi Arabia and the UAE what will the reaction be and how will we be defended?” he said.
“I ask that hypothetically but it’s not really hypothetical. The Gulf countries, Israel, and the countries in the immediate vicinity are the ones at immediate risk.”
‘Can’t allow another Lebanon’
“We have a vested interest in ensuring what happened in Lebanon does not happen in Yemen,” said Otaiba, who blamed Iran for the failed peace talks in Geneva.
The talks, which would have been the first in nearly two years, were scheduled to take place in the Swiss city of Geneva on September 6 but the Houthi delegation failed to arrive, accusing the Saudi-UAE alliance fighting in Yemen of blocking them from travelling.
“Our analysis tells us it was based on instructions from Tehran that they did not turn up,” al-Otaiba said.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, also spoke at the summit and accused Iran of supplying the missiles fired by Houthi rebels into the kingdom and at the UAE.
“We’re accumulating risk in the Middle East by not getting at Iran’s proliferation,” he said.
“There is something brazen about this missile behaviour, they’re not even hiding it. This sort of escalation is deeply concerning and will be met with a swift and decisive response.”
Oil and weapons
Military analysts at IHS Jane have suggested Iran could be aiding the Houthis with parts or technology, but added it would be difficult for Tehran to ship whole missiles to Yemen.
Another possibility, they say, is the missiles were acquired by Yemen from North Korea before the current conflict.
Since its withdrawal from the Iran deal, the Trump administration has slapped biting sanctions on Tehran in order to choke its oil exports – the main source of income for the country.
Some of Tehran’s biggest oil customers appear to have succumbed to the US pressure with India – a major buyer of Iranian oil – cutting down on its imports.
However, top diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia have agreed to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports including oil.