Politics

Saudi Arabia earns Arab, Gulf support for reining in IRGC

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh and AFP

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman delivers the opening speech at the emergency Arab League summit held Thursday night (May 30th) in Mecca. [Photo courtesy of Saudi Press Agency]

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Friday (May 31st) called on Arab states to confront Iran's "criminal" actions after attacks on oil installations sparked fears of a regional conflagration.

The king's remarks came at the start of two back-to-back emergency summits in the holy city of Mecca, which drew near-unanimous support for the kingdom from Gulf and Arab states -- with the exception of Iraq.

The summits came a day after US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iran was almost certainly behind this month's sabotage of four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast. Tehran rejected the charge.

Saudi Arabia also faces stepped-up drone attacks from Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.

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Delegations from Arab League member states take part in an emergency summit in Mecca on Thursday (May 30th). [Photo courtesy of Saudi Press Agency]

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GCC leaders attend an emergency summit in Mecca on Thursday (May 30th). [Photo courtesy of Saudi Press Agency]

"The absence of a firm and dissuasive response to Iran's acts of sabotage in the region has encouraged it to continue and strengthen them in the way we see today," the Saudi king said.

"Its recent criminal acts... require that all of us work seriously to preserve the security and achievements of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC)," the king added, referring to the attacks on Gulf oil installations.

The monarch also called on the international community to use "all means" necessary to contain Iran.

Joint Arab, Gulf statements

A joint statement issued by Arab leaders condemned the Houthis, supported by Iran, for targeting two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia and sabotaging commercial ships in territorial waters of the UAE.

They said Iran's behaviour "poses a direct and serious threat" and called on "the international community to take a firm stand to confront Iran and its destabilising acts in the region".

A joint statement issued by Gulf leaders went further, expressing "support for the US strategy towards Iran" that has seen Washington tighten the screws on Iran's economy with sanctions and an increased military deployment to the Gulf.

Gulf leaders called on Iran to "stay away from hostile, destabilising acts".

They urged the international community to take "more serious and effective steps to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities and to impose stricter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme".

They also stressed "the importance of strengthening Gulf-US co-operation in the framework of a strategic partnership".

A strong message to the IRGC

The Arab and Gulf summits directed a strong message to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to stop its interferences in the region, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Shehri, who is retired from the Saudi military.

The summits achieved the kingdom's objective, he told Al-Mashareq, by spotlighting Iran’s criminal actions and stressing the need to stem the Iranian tide by closing Arab and Gulf ranks.

"The summit outputs hinted at the use of force, but kept the door partially open to dialogue and the establishment of peace in the region," he said.

The kingdom is militarily capable of stopping Iran's aggression, al-Shehri said, and has the full support of the US, which has boosted its military presence in the Gulf in the event that the situation escalates.

But Saudi Arabia seeks to avoid a military confrontation and spare the region a war, he said, as this would hurt Gulf citizens the most.

The kingdom largely found consensus, with the exception of Iraq, whose position stems from a political situation brought on by the Iranian tide itself, he said.

Al-Shehri accused the IRGC of putting the region at risk of war with its actions.

The kingdom and the UAE have the right to self-defence and to military intervention to establish security, he said.

He said he expects Iran to take advantage of the kingdom’s call for dialogue to calm the situation, as it will not fare well in a military confrontation.

Islamic nations to meet Saturday

The Arab and Gulf summits will be followed by a third meeting on Saturday of heads of state from Islamic nations.

Through the summits, the kingdom has sought to project a unified Arab front against Tehran, in the face of differences with neighbouring Qatar.

Qatar was represented at Friday's meetings by Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, who shook hands with the Saudi king.

But Iraq, caught between the US and Iran, opposed a final statement released by Arab countries, which condemned Tehran's behaviour in the region.

Iraq, which has offered to mediate between Washington and Tehran, recently warned of a risk of war amid escalating tensions.

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