Iran rattles saber at Saudi Arabia

Iran rattles saber at Saudi Arabia

Baku, Azerbaijan, Apr. 27

By Umid Niayesh - Trend:

Iranian deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian threatened Saudi Arabia by saying its prevention of the delivery of the Islamic Republic's "humanitarian aid" to Yemen will not go unanswered.

Amir Abdollahian's remarks came after Saudi Arabian fighter jets prevented an Iranian plane from entering Yemeni airspace last week. Iran says that the plane was carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen, meanwhile Saudi Arabia accuse the country of providing military support to the Yemeni Shiite rebels.

Hassan Hashemian, an Iranian expert on Arab regional issues believes that Iranian officials' statements about taking measures against the Saudi Arabia are only remarks for domestic consumption.

Iran knows that it can't take any responsive step against Saudi Arabia practically, Hashemian told Trend April 27.

Iran's diplomacy office is under serious pressure by the country's hardliners over the Yemen issue, the expert said, adding that they accuse the foreign ministry of not taking serious steps against the Saudi Arabian air strikes.

Saudi Arabia and several Arab allies have imposed an air and naval blockade on Yemen as part of a one-month campaign to oust the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have taken most of the country and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh.

Almost 33 days after the coalition's air strikes, Iran still is not able to take any practical steps for supporting the Houthis excluding some promotional moves, Hashemian said.

He considers dispatching the country's warships to the Gulf of Aden in line with these promotional steps to increase morale among the Houthi fighters. However, the Islamic Republic insists that the Iranian navy's presences in the Gulf is not related to Yemen's civil war and is aimed at safeguarding the country's oil tanks and merchant ships' security.

Earlier some media outlets quoted US officials as saying the Iranian warships turned away from Yemen on April 23 and continued to move northeast on April 24, back in the direction of Iran, something Tehran rejected.

"Rumors and protests wouldn't force Iran's navy to leave its mission in the Gulf of Aden," the Islamic Republic's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said April 26.

Hashemian further commented that Iran's insistence on sending planes directly to Sanaa raises questions about sending weapons to rebels.

If the Iranian plane is carrying aide rather than weapons to Yemen, Iran can send it to a third country such as Djibouti and resend it to Sanaa after inspections, he said.

The country also can send its humanitarian aid to Yemen via international organizations such as the Red Cross organization, which if had been done so, it would have been favorable to Iran in terms of propaganda, the expert underlined. It would prove Iran's claims over sending medicines and humanitarian aide to Yemen, not weapons, Hashemian stressed.

He also touched upon the short-term ceasefire in Yemen, which was established on April 21.

Amir Abdollahian's forecast about suspending the coalition's air strikes indicates that Iran directly or via third parties is negotiating with Saudi Arabia over the Yemen crisis, Hashemian said.

The coalition announced April 21 that it ended the air strikes to seek a political solution in Yemen, but restarted the aerial bombardment a day later. Hours before that Amir Abdollahian announced that the air strikes would stop in the next few hours as a result of the "made efforts".

Tehran had promised to impose pressure on the Houthis and limit their movements once the air strikes halted, however it did not materialize and Saudi Arabia resumed the attacks after a few hours, Hashemian noted.

On the same day that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition halted bombing Yemen, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported that Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and his US counterpart John Kerry have held a phone talk over the crisis. The phone talk later confirmed by Iran's foreign ministry.

Edited by CN

Umid Niayesh is Trend Agency's staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @UmidNiayesh

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