Saudi Arabian State Media Urges U.S. To 'Hit Iran Hard' With Punitive Airstrikes
Iran sees the escalating tensions with the U.S. as extending to include Saudi Arabia and Israel. And on Thursday, an editorial in Saudi Arabia’s Arab News demanded: “Iran must not go unpunished… In [our] considered view, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.”
A day earlier, the head of Iran’s IRGC claimed the country is ”on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy. This moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution.” Hossein Salami has previously threatened the “triangle” of the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel, and in 2015 said that Iran “would welcome” war with the United States.
“Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers Iran poses,” Arab News said in its editorial, ”not only to Saudi Arabia and the region but to the entire world. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions – again in the world’s interest – but also for the world to ensure they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region.”
The Saudi newspaper claims that the drone attacks on Tuesday and the attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the UAE at the weekend “represents a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate.”
Earlier on Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister said from Tokyo that “the escalation by the United States is unacceptable.” Javad Zarif also described U.S. actions as “economic terrorism, pure and simple.”
Nothing is new in the Middle East. The military standoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia defines the region, far more than any regional enmity towards Israel. Tel Aviv has been courting Middle Eastern Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and UAE. In the region, the concept of “my enemy’s enemy” carries serious weight.
“Our strategy is to erase Israel from the global political map,” Hossein Salami has said of Israel. On Wednesday, Iran’s defense minister announced that Iran will “defeat the American-Zionist front.” And on Tuesday, Ayatollah Khamenei said that “the control of many affairs rests in the hands of the Zionist society” because Washington prioritizes Israel ’s interests over all others.
On the subject of Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia could not be more aligned.
“We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message,” Arab News said. “Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences.”
Much has been written about the U.S. plan as regards the standoff with Iran and the escalating situation in the Gulf. The danger is that it will be a regional trigger that escalates the situation further, rather than any considered U.S. action. Iran doesn’t need to target U.S. forces in the Middle East when it has all of Saudi Arabia and Israel on its doorstep. And the danger of a proxy war, most likely in Iraq, also now looms large. And from there everything gets frighteningly serious frighteningly fast.
According to the Guardian, Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the IRGC’s venturing Quds force, “recently met Iraqi militias in Baghdad and told them to prepare for a proxy war.” The newspaper added that, according to intelligence sources, “the move to mobilize Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the U.S. that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat.”
On Monday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said “we are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended. What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.” By Thursday, the U.K. had raised the threat level for military and diplomatic staff in Iraq and Hunt followed up discussions with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by tweeting that “we share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran. As always we work closely with the U.S.”
In its editorial, Arab News referenced Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman calling Ayatollah Khamenei the “new Hitler of the Middle East,” arguing that “appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler,” and urging that “the next logical step should be surgical strikes.”
If and when that happens, though, Iran’s response will be markedly different to Syria’s.