Iran’s Twitter-friendly foreign minister offered up some choice jabs Monday against the United States and its Saudi allies for what he called “regional bullying” and “destabilizing behavior” after Saudi officials blamed Iran for a missile that was fired at their capital from war-ravaged Yemen.
“Hazardous to regional health,” wrote Mohammad Javad Zarif in a barb directed at the close Saudi-U.S. ties.
Zarif, known for his “Twitter diplomacy,” criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen and what he said were other “wars of aggression” waged by Saudi Arabia in the region. The missile that landed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Saturday was fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supplying the Houthis with weapons.
Iran has denounced the Saudi-directed attacks in Yemen — launched in 2015 after the rebels ousted a Saudi-backed government — but Tehran denies any direct aid to the Houthis.
Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a struggle for dominance in the region for years, with the rivalries playing out in places such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But the risk of military confrontation appeared to heighten Monday when Saudi officials said the missile launch may constitute an “act of war” on the part of Iran.
Zarif linked the turmoil to a visit by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, to Saudi Arabia last week. Both the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have vowed to more aggressively counter Iranian influence in the region.
And Zarif pointed to Trump’s own visit to Riyadh earlier this year, after which Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf enforced a blockade on Qatar for maintaining ties with Iran. Iran also has condemned the Sunni-led monarchy in Bahrain during years of crackdowns on Shiite protesters seeking a greater voice in the island-nation's affairs.
“Visits to the belligerent #KSA have proved hazardous to regional health. Trump visit led to Bahrain repression followed by Qatar debacle,” Zarif said. KSA is an abbreviation for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Visits by Kushner & Lebanese PM led to Hariri’s bizarre resignation while abroad,” he tweeted.
On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his post during a visit to Riyadh, and blamed Iranian influence and support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Zarif, in turn, accused Saudi-led forces of bombing Yemen “to smithereens,” killing civilians and unleashing a humanitarian crisis of famine and disease. “But of course,” he added with obvious sarcasm, Saudi Arabia “blames Iran.”