According to the Saudi crown prince, Tehran supplied missiles used by Houthi rebels to attack Riyadh airport. For him, it was a “direct military aggression’ that is tantamount to “act of war”. Iran has denied the charges, accusing Saudi Arabia instead of “provocative actions”. Lebanon’ stability is now at risk.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman yesterday accused Iran of an act of "direct military aggression" by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. This comes after a ballistic missile was intercepted near the airport of the Saudi capital.
This "may be considered an act of war", state media quoted the prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a telephone conversation.
Houthi-aligned media reported on Monday that the Shia movement fired a Burkan H2 ballistic missile at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, which is about 850 kilometers from the border with Yemen.
Saudi missile defences intercepted the missile in flight, but some fragments fell inside the airport area.
Iran reacted immediately, strongly denying any involvement. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the prince's claim was "dangerous".
Mr Zarif also condemned Saudi Arabia's "provocative actions", noting that the attack against Riyadh airport was an independent action by the Houthi in response to the aggression by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
From the internal crackdown against (possible) opponents culminating in the recent wave of arrests, to the all-out confrontation with Iran in the Middle East, the Saudi crown prince has embarked on an increasingly aggressive policy.
Mohammed bin Salman’s reach has also come to Lebanon, because of allegedly hostile attacks by the country’s Shia Hezbollah, resulting in the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The crown prince, who is also Defence Minister, is the main force behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to intervene in Yemen.
Since March 2015, the Arab nation has been devastated by a bloody war that has killed nearly 9,000 people, 60 per cent civilian, plunging it a serious food crisis, increasing child illiteracy, and creating the conditions for the worst outbreak of cholera in the world.
Responding to the attack from Yemen, Saudi authorities closed land, sea and air borders, further tightening the blockade.
However, according to Riyadh, aid can still get into the country despite strict border controls, a claim challenged by the United Nations, which is saying that humanitarian flights have been stopped with serious consequences for the civilian population.
Meanwhile, the US Defence Department has backed Salman’s claim, which highlights Iran’s true role in Yemen as a missile supplier for Houthi Shia rebels.
US President Donald Trump has also expressed his strong support for the action of the crown prince, both at home and abroad.
For both Washington and Riyadh, the primary goal is to counter the influence of the Islamic Republic in the region; hence the decision to carry out a proxy war in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
In the latter case, such actions, starting with the resignation of Prime Minister Hariri, could undermine the country’s fragile balance and trigger a large-scale conflict with the involvement of Hezbollah and Israel.
Some analysts and experts compare the opposition between Sunni Riyadh and Shia Tehran to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
However, few are betting on an open conflict between the two leading Muslim nations, which would have tragic consequences if it happened, and not only for the Middle East.