ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia may take further measures against Iran after cutting ties with its regional rival last week in a major row over the kingdom’s execution of a Shiite cleric, the Saudi foreign minister said Saturday.
Adel al-Jubeir’s comments came at a news conference after an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), convened to discuss tensions with Iran after attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in the country.
“We are looking at additional measures to be taken if it [Iran] continues with its current policies,” Jubeir said, without elaborating on what the measures could be.
The crisis between Shiite power Iran and the conservative Sunni kingdom, both major oil exporters, started when Saudi Arabia executed cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2, triggering outrage among Shiites across the Middle East. In Iran, protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, prompting Riyadh to sever relations. Tehran cut all commercial ties with Riyadh and banned pilgrims from traveling to Mecca.
“The escalation is coming from Iran, not from Saudi Arabia or the GCC. . . . We are evaluating Iran’s moves and taking steps to counter them . . . things will be clearer in the near future,” Jubeir said.
Iran has said the kingdom is to blame for the diplomatic crisis.
In a letter to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, complained about Saudi Arabia’s “provocations” toward Tehran, including the execution of Nimr and what he described as “persistent mistreatment” of Iranian pilgrims visiting Mecca.
Zarif also portrayed Saudi Arabia as a threat to regional and global security.
“Most members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Islamic State and Nusra Front are Saudi citizens or have been brainwashed by demagogues wielding oil money,” Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Zarif’s letter as saying. “They [the Saudis] can continue to support extremist terrorists and promote sectarian hatred, or choose the path of good neighborliness and play a constructive role in regional security.”
Saudi Arabia has shown that it will move against extremist groups: It executed dozens of al-Qaeda members alongside Nimr, and it announced last month an Islamic coalition against terrorism. But the kingdom’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi clergy, which views Shiites as heretical, is a cornerstone of Saudi ruling legitimacy.
After its meeting, the GCC — which comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates — condemned what they said was Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia and the region.
Jubeir said his country had asked the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which Iran is a member, to convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the aggression against its embassy.