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Saudi Arabia says no to war with Iran but vows strong response

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs. (Akio Kon / Bloomberg)
Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs. (Akio Kon / Bloomberg)
By Vivian Nereim Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia does not want a war with Iran but will respond “with strength and determination” if Iran decides to start one, a top Saudi official said on Sunday.

“We don’t want a war in any way, but at the same time we won’t allow Iran to continue its hostile policies toward the kingdom,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh early Sunday morning. “We want peace and stability.”

The commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Hossein Salami, said his country isn’t looking for war but isn’t afraid of a confrontation, either. Recent incidents have “made the extent of the enemy’s strength clear,” he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Tensions in the Gulf have escalated significantly over the past two weeks after the U.S. accelerated the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and moved B-52 bombers to the region. It cited intelligence reports of unspecified threats from Iran that have been disputed by some key allies.

Last week, several ships, including two Saudi vessels, were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates as they made their way toward the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s foremost oil shipping chokepoint.

Al-Jubeir began his press conference – called suddenly after midnight – by listing a series of terrorist attacks in which he said Iran had played a role over the past few decades.

The Iranian government “is not looking for stability or security in the region,” he said, adding that Yemen’s Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, had launched more than 200 missiles into Saudi Arabia over the past few years. The Houthis also were behind a drone attack on Saudi oil installations last week, in which the drones were supplied by Iran, he claimed.

The assaults on the two Aramco oil-pumping stations forced the temporary closing of an important east-west pipeline in the kingdom and added to growing friction in the Gulf, where the U.S. has tightened sanctions against Iran, demanding it stop supporting militias across the Middle East, including the Houthis.

The Saudi pipeline has since reopened, but officials from all sides have warned that recent events have left the region at risk of sliding into a potentially devastating international conflict.

“We won’t stand with our hands bound,” Al-Jubeir said. “The ball is in Iran’s court and Iran should determine what the path will be.”

The United Arab Emirates and other countries are still investigating the attacks on the ships, Al-Jubeir added.

“We have some indications and we will make the announcements once the investigations are complete,” he said.

Several U.S. policy makers have insisted that war with Iran isn’t an immediate threat, unless Tehran strikes first.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus said during an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that it didn’t seem the sabotage actions would provoke the U.S. “to do something very significant.” Iran would likely have to seek back-channel diplomacy with President Donald Trump to relieve economic pressure, he said.

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