Saudi officials demanded international action to counter alleged Iranian attacks in the Gulf region.
During a meeting of foreign ministers for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf called on Muslim nations to “confront” vessel attacks off the UAE coast —that the United States has blamed on Iran— with “all means of force and firmness.” The minister said the alleged sabotage of ships and a recent drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline require “more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups.”
While the Saudis may be adamant about Iran’s involvement (and have substantial evidence to back up the claim), Iranian Attacks in the Gulf region have been primarily executed via the regime’s proxies such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Even Saudi officials have been forced to acknowledge that it isn’t Iranian forces necessarily that are responsible for the string of recent sabotage acts. In reference to an attack on Saudi oil facilities, Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz wrote in a tweet that the strike was “ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis.” This has afforded Tehran a certain level of plausible deniability.
The American administration, however, seems to have had enough with giving Iran a free pass. Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a press conference that attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this month were the work of ”naval mines almost certainly from Iran.” Bolton’s claim drew the harsh responses from both Iran and Russia.
It will be important over the coming days to see how far the U.S. will take the “Iran-backed sabotage” story. Accusing the regime of actual attacks on international shipping would be the closest to a cause for conflict the schism between Iran and the West has seen in quite a while.