Saudi Policies Behind Spread of Terrorism

Saudi Policies Behind Spread of Terrorism
Saudi Policies Behind Spread of Terrorism

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has criticized Saudi Arabia for supporting insurgents fighting the Syrian government, saying that Riyadh's "radical policies" have encouraged the growth of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.

In an interview with the Guardian during a recent visit to London, the senior diplomat dismissed a statement this week by the Saudi foreign minister, Adel Jubeir, that Syria was "occupied Iranian territory", retorting that the Saudis were occupying Yemen, where they are leading a campaign to restore the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has been dislodged by Houthi fighters.

"Considering the fact that for seven months Saudi Arabia has been attempting to occupy Yemen using force, when it comes to Syria they are not in a position to make such comments," he said. "I recommend that [Jubeir] instead of passing the buck considers cooperation and constructive behavior in the region."

He said Saudi "mismanagement" was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of pilgrims, including nearly 500 Iranians, in the hajj disaster last month.

***Unwavering Will

The deputy minister for Arab and African affairs said Iran has boosted the number of military advisers it has sent to Syria where it is determined to help defeat "terrorism", while insisting that the future of President Bashar al-Assad can be decided only by the Syrian people.

Amir Abdollahian stressed that there was "no [Iranian] fighting force, as such" on the ground. But he said advisers were helping the Syrian army.

"The fight against terrorism in Syria has intensified and Russia has taken effective steps to fight Daesh [IS]."

"We have decided to increase the number of our military advisers in Syria to help the fight against terrorists. The number of officers and advisers is not important. What is important is an unwavering will to fight terrorism."

He said numbers were "commensurate with our capabilities and the requests made by the Syrian government. If need be we will provide the same advisory services to our Russian friends."

The diplomat dismissed the scenario, related by diplomats, that Iran had urged Russia to intervene directly because it feared Assad was in danger of falling after admitting losing territory and men. "We believe that armed groups even in the most demanding times were not able and will not be able to topple the Syrian government."

The Foreign Ministry official said he had held constructive talks in Brussels with Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, on proposals to advance a political solution in Syria. Tehran's relations with European countries are now closer in the wake of the July landmark nuclear agreement.

Amir Abdollahian is the most senior Iranian official to have visited Britain in a decade, weeks after embassies in both capitals were reopened following a four-year closure.

***Final Decision

UN officials have said they would like Iran to be part of an international "contact group" to deal with the Syrian crisis. It is not currently part of any international forum handling it. But unlike other candidates it does not subscribe to the 2012 Geneva conference principle of working for a "Syrian-led political transition" that could lead to Assad stepping down.

"In any political process the role played by Bashar al-Assad will be important."

"We are not working for Assad to stay in power forever as president. But we are very cognizant of his role in the fight against terrorism and the national unity of that country. The people of Syria will make the final decision – and whatever decision they take, we will endorse."