Saudi monarch slams Iran and calls for disarming of Hezbollah
RIYADH – Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz strongly waged a frontal attack on Iran and called for a “comprehensive war” against it, as he spelled out Riyadh’s priorities at present.
Furthermore, he urged that Iran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, be disarmed,
Moreover, the Saudi monarch expressed his support for the peace process sponsored by US President Donald Trump between Israel and Arab countries, but hinted that Saudi Arabia, as it still adheres to the Arab peace initiative, does not intend to enter this path for now.
King Salman made these statements in his speech to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, via a video connexion, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
“The Kingdom has extended its hands in peace to Iran, has dealt with it over the past decades with a positive and open attitude, received its presidents several times to discuss ways to build good-neighbourly relations based on mutual respect, and welcomed international efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program,” King Salman said.
“But again and again, the whole world has seen the Iranian regime’s exploitation of these efforts in increasing its expansionist activities, building its terrorist networks, using terrorism, and wasting the capabilities and wealth of the Iranian people to achieve expansionary projects that only resulted in chaos, extremism and sectarianism,” he added.
The Saudi monarch pointed out that Iran had targeted Saudi oil installations last year, and that “Houthi militias threaten the security of international maritime navigation, and continue to target civilians in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.”
This was the first time that Saudi Arabia has directly accused Iran, at this level, of targeting its oil installations, even though it had already shown material evidence of that by displaying remnants of missiles and drones that are similar to the guided weapons produced by Iran.
A Gulf diplomatic source considered that King Salman wanted to confirm that his country’s priority at the current stage is to secure its national security by moving internationally in order to stop Iranian activities threatening the security of navigation, as well as its military interventions in a number of Arab countries.
The source referred to Riyadh’s refusal of some countries’ attempts to adhere to the nuclear agreement with Iran, an agreement that had allowed Tehran to recover frozen funds and revitalise its economy, and did not subject it to any controls regarding regional security.
The United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, a deal that President Donald Trump had described as “the worst deal ever.” Washington has since unilaterally imposed sanctions on Tehran, stressing that all countries must also re-impose UN sanctions in an effort to push the Islamic Republic to negotiate a new agreement.
King Salman was even more direct in talking about Lebanon and its problems and held Hezbollah responsible for what is happening in this beleaguered country, stressing that Saudi Arabia stands by the Lebanese people, who were exposed to a humanitarian catastrophe due to the Beirut port explosion.
The painful situation in Lebanon, the Saudi king said, “came as a result of the domination of the pro-Iranian terrorist Hezbollah on decision-making in Lebanon by force of arms, leading to the disruption of the institutions of the constitutional state. Achieving the security, stability and prosperity that the brotherly Lebanese people aspire to requires disarming this terrorist party.”
The Lebanese authorities said the August 4 blast was caused by huge quantities of ammonium nitrate unsafely stored for years in the port of Beirut.
Observers believe that the Saudi monarch sent a precise message to the Lebanese and to the countries wanting a new Lebanese government in Hezbollah’s orbit, to the effect that Saudi Arabia is not considering investments, finances, or grants to Lebanon as long as it remains hostage of Hezbollah. The Saudi position converges perfectly with that of the Trump administration, which continues to put pressure on Hezbollah through financial sanctions that affect companies, accounts and people connected to it inside and outside Lebanon.
For all practical purposes, Riyadh withdrew politically from Lebanon following the deterioration of its relationship with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. It cut down on its support of anti-Hezbollah figures and withdrew its media financing, which left Hezbollah and Iran with the impression that the Lebanese issue is not one of Saudi Arabia’s priorities.
Regarding peace with Israel, which has become the topic of the day at this stage following the UAE’s and Bahrain’s peace agreements with Israel, King Salman said, “We support the efforts made by the current US administration to bring peace to the Middle East by bringing the Palestinian and Israeli sides to the negotiating table in order to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement.”
It seemed as though the Saudi monarch has deliberately omitted to refer to the latest path taken by Abu Dhabi and Manama, and focused instead on the Palestinian-Israeli track, considering that the 2002 Arab peace initiative was the basis for a “comprehensive and just solution” that guarantees the Palestinians’ access to their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The king has not gone as far as to bless the last two agreements brokered by the United States and whcih provided for the full normalisation of Emirati and Bahraini relations with Israel.
Middle East analysts believe that King Salman’s signals on peace show that Saudi Arabia is not ready to go down the same path as the UAE and Bahrain, given considerations related to its weight in the Islamic world that push it to postpone taking a daring initiative towards peace with Israel.
The Saudi monarch’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly added to the credibility of the leaks according to which he personally stands against taking the risk of going for a peace agreement whose conditions have not matured in the Saudi context despite an encouraging regional climate.