On Sunday, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan threatened destruction against every part of Saudi Arabia, except the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, if hostilities should erupt between the two countries.
The context for Dehghan’s remarks comes from an interview last Tuesday in which Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said meaningful diplomacy with Iran was impossible because the Iranian theocracy believes it has a divine mandate to seize control of the holy cities from Saudi Arabia and rule the entire Muslim world.
“How do you have a dialogue with a regime built on an extremist ideology… which says they must control the land of Muslims and spread their Twelver Jaafari sect in the Muslim World?” Prince Mohammed asked, as transcribed by The National. His “Twelver” comment is a reference to Shiite Iran’s belief that a prophesized “Twelfth Imam” will soon appear and usher in the end of history.
“We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia,” Salman vowed. “Instead, we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”
He also claimed Saudi Arabia could easily wipe out the Iran-supported Houthi insurgency in Yemen if it wished but holds back because “casualties in our forces will be in the thousands, and the other result will be Yemeni civilian casualties in high numbers.” This was apparently intended for Saudis who believe their country’s military intervention in the Yemeni civil war has stalled out.
“If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we will leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina,” Iran’s defense minister responded on Sunday.
“They think they can do something because they have an air force,” he added, a comment Reuters interprets as a slam against the Saudi involvement in Yemen, which has been largely an aerial campaign.
The Associated Press quotes Dehghan criticizing Saudi Arabia’s ties to the United States and Israel, alliances he said were against “the interests of Muslim nations.” He accused the Saudis of trying to “please” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for the purpose of provoking Netanyahu’s action against us.”
At a conference in Washington D.C. last weekend, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed al-Jaber, accused the Houthi rebels in Yemen of selling Iranian weapons to al-Qaeda in Yemen.