Russia: Groundless accusations against Iran inflaming tensions
‘France working to reduce the escalation’
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned of "all-out war" in the event of US or Saudi military strikes against his country, however, he said Iran doesn’t want to engage in a military confrontation.
Remarks by the Iran’s top diplomat came amid soaring tensions between Iran and the United States and its regional ally Saudi Arabia following recent Yemen’s drone strikes on major Saudi oil facilities, which shut down about 50 percent of the kingdom’s crude and gas production.
The US and Saudi officials have dismissed Yemeni Houthis’ claims of responsibility. Instead, they rushed to blame Tehran for the air raids, prompting an outright rejection from Iranian officials.
Zarif denied that Iran was involved in the attacks, saying that Yemen's Houthi fighters have stepped up their military capabilities and were capable of conducting a sophisticated operation such as the one that knocked out half of the kingdom's energy production.
Asked what the consequence of a US or Saudi military strike on Iran would be, Zarif said: "All-out war."
"I make a very serious statement about defending our country. I am making a very serious statement that we don't want to engage in a military confrontation," Zarif told CNN.
He added that a military response based on "deception" about the weekend attacks would cause "a lot of casualties."
"But we won't blink to defend our territory," he said on Thursday. However, the Iranian official said Tehran hoped to avoid conflict, adding that the country was willing to talk to its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Zarif added, in a reference to how Saudi Arabia's critics believe Riyadh relies on the US to fight on its behalf: "I think it is important for Saudi government to understand what they are trying to achieve. Do they want to fight Iran until the last American soldier? Is that their aim?"
Pompeo’s trip to region
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had traveled to the region to meet Saudi and Emirati officials, said Washington is building a coalition to deter what it claims Iranian threats following the weekend attacks on Saudi facilities.
He said the United States was seeking to build a “coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution.” He did not provide details about the coalition.
Pompeo appeared to soften his tone after talks with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, which is Riyadh’s main Arab ally.
“We are here to build out a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution. That’s my mission, that’s what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve and I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it that way,” Pompeo told reporters.
On Friday, Zarif questioned the US plans while listing repeated Iranian diplomatic initiatives.
“Coalition for Peaceful Resolution?,” Zarif said in a statement on Twitter, and listed eight diplomatic initiatives by Iran since 1985, including a peace plan for Yemen in 2015, and a regional non-aggression pact for the Persian Gulf region proposed earlier this year.
Later on Friday, Zarif called Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah where the two discussed measures to de-escalate tensions in the region, state news agency KUNA reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also urged all countries in the Persian Gulf to sit down for talks to defuse tensions and said groundless accusations against Iran over the attacks were inflaming tensions, Interfax News Agency reported.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri also said on Friday France is working to “reduce the escalation” that ensued from the recent Yemeni drone attacks against Saudi oil facilities. His remarks came after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating Western-backed war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power and crushing the popular Houthi movement.
Resistance by Yemen’s armed forces, led by Ansarullah, has, however, pushed the Saudi war to a stalemate, with Yemeni forces increasingly using sophisticated homemade weaponry in retaliatory strikes against the coalition.
US valued oil more than people
In another tweet on Friday, Zarif slammed the US hypocrisy regarding the war on Yemen, highlighting that Washington effectively valued oil more than the Yemeni lives lost amid the ongoing aggression against the country.
“Arab blood vs. Arab oil / A primer on US policy: 4 yrs of indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen, 100,000 dead Yemenis, 20M malnourished Yemenis, 2.3M cholera cases, carte (blanche) for culprits,” Zarif tweeted.
“Retaliatory Yemeni strike on oil storage tanks = unacceptable “act of war”,” he added, in reference to Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure which Pompeo called an “act of war” against the world’s largest oil exporter.
Iran’s top diplomat made the remarks shortly before leaving Tehran to attend to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.