Saudi Arabia ups ante in war of words with Iran

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi Arabia would “not hesitate” to defend its interests as Riyadh joined the US in blaming Iran for last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf.

Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto leader, said Saudi Arabia did not want a conflict in the region, but his comments were indicative of rising tensions in the oil-rich Gulf.

They came days after two tankers — one loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia — were damaged, forcing their crews to evacuate. Last month, four tankers, including two Saudi vessels, were also struck by “sabotage attacks” in the same coastal waters of the United Arab Emirates.

The incidents have raised concerns about the vulnerability of energy supplies around the vital shipping route through the Strait of Hormuz.

“The kingdom doesn’t want a war in the region, but we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, sovereignty and vital interests,” Prince Mohammed said in an interview with the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

“The choice before Iran is clear. Does it want to be a normal country that has a constructive role in the international community, or remain a rogue state?,” he continued. “We hope that the Iranian regime would choose to become a normal country and cease its aggressive approach.”

Khalid al-Falih, Saudi energy minister, said on Saturday that there “must be a rapid and decisive response to the threat of energy supplies”. His comments were echoed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s foreign minister, who on Saturday called on friendly nations to confront “fascist regimes that seek to destroy the region”.

In addition to the tanker incidents, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are aligned to Iran, last month claimed responsibility for drone attacks on oil pumping stations in … Read More...