Published: Sat, May 18, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Saudi paper, close to MBS, calls on USA to strike Iran

Last week, USA officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on US forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat.

Gulf tensions have spiked since the USA stopped granting waivers to buyers of Iranian oil early this month, tightening sanctions slapped on the Islamic Republic after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal a year ago.

But tensions have ratcheted up, with the USA deploying an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over alleged threats from Iran.

Iran's foreign minister has said "extremist individuals" in the USA government were pursuing unsafe policies and Tehran is not seeking confrontation.

Kono expressed concern over the rising tension in the Middle East, and urged Zarif to use restraint and keep implementing the nuclear agreement.

The U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier and bombers into the Mideast to counter a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.

Nasr al-Shomari, a military commander for the Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba, told AFP the claim was "a pretext" by Washington to create "an uproar" in Iraq. They spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their safety.

Trump, however, predicted Iran would "soon" want to negotiate.

At the same time, President Trump voiced hope on Thursday that the USA was not going to war with Iran.

He also blasted media reports of White House turmoil over Iran, saying "there is no infighting whatsoever".

Zarif late Thursday dismissed Trump's prediction of talks, telling reporters: "I don't know why President Trump is confident". Khamenei has final say on all matters of state in Iran.

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According to Iranian state media, Zarif is set to visit China on Friday for discussions on "regional and worldwide issues" including the 2015 nuclear deal with global powers.

Pakistan also has close ties with Saudi Arabia and it maintains a balancing act between Riyadh and Tehran. In another development that month, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) denied that Tehran had provided the Houthi movement in Yemen with ballistic missiles, according to the Tasnim news agency.

"It is directly linked to Iran, multiple threat streams directly linked to Iran", said one official. Satellite images seen by the AP from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies showed no visible damage to the vessels, and Gulf officials have refused to say who might be responsible.

The rebels said May 14's attacks were a response to "crimes" committed by Saudi Arabia during its bloody air war in Yemen, that has been criticised repeatedly by the United Nations and human rights groups.

"This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war". "We are very anxious about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said as he arrived at a meeting in Brussels with his French and German counterparts and the European Union foreign policy chief two days ago.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed that sentiment, saying in Sochi, Russia: 'We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran'.

There are some suggestions, then, that Iran is aiming to disrupt, or at least show it is capable of disrupting, the global oil markets through these attacks.

Iran's foreign minister said Thursday that sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are "unacceptable", but his country is committed to an worldwide nuclear deal that has steadily unravelled amid rising tensions.

"As always we work closely with the U.S.", he tweeted.

On a visit to Tokyo on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif told his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono that his country's response to the U.S. actions - America's pullout from the nuclear deal previous year and the imposition of USA sanctions - is within Iran's rights.

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