International desk, October 13: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Sunday to develop more advanced and modern weapons, amid increasingly tense disputes with the United States and Gulf Arab states.
Tensions in the Gulf have risen to new highs since May 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran that put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions.
As U.S. sanctions have been reimposed, there have been a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that Washington and its allies have blamed on Iran, which denies responsibility.
“The Guards should have advanced and modern weapons … Your weapons should be modern and updated. It should be developed at home. You need to develop and produce your weapons,” Khamenei said in a speech at Imam Hossein Military University in Tehran.
“Today the Guards have a powerful presence inside and outside Iran … America’s hostile approach has increased the Guards’ greatness,” Khamenei said, according to state TV.
Washington and Riyadh have accused Iran of being behind attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14, which temporarily knocked out half Saudi oil output. Tehran denies any role in the strikes which were claimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi forces.
Amid the tensions, Washington plans to deploy about 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, including fighter squadrons, an air expeditionary wing and air defense personnel.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Tehran on Sunday, saying he would continue efforts to defuse the row between Tehran and Riyadh, which have been locked in proxy conflicts in the Middle East.
Khan, who also met Khamenei, is visiting Tehran after he said U.S. President Donald Trump had asked him to help reduce tensions with Iran.
“Pakistan does not want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Khan told a joint news conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, broadcast on state television.
“I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh,” said Khan, saying he had “constructive talks” with Rouhani and planned to visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
“Mr President, the main reason I came here with my delegation is that we don’t want conflict in the region. Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties in the last 15 years in the ‘war on terror’, Afghanistan is still suffering, [there is ] terrible devastation in Syria — we don’t want another conflict in this part of the world,” said Imran.
“Mr President, we have Iran as a neighbour, our ties with Iran go way back. Saudi Arabia has been one of our closest friends. Saudi Arabia has helped us when we have needed, when we have been in need and so the reason for this trip was that we don’t want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“We recognise that it is a complex issue but we feel that it can be resolved through dialogue. What should never happen is a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran because this will not just affect this whole region — two brotherly countries will be affected — this will cause poverty in the world. Oil prices will go up.
“There is vested interest behind this conflict,” added the premier.
Speaking about his visit to Iran and upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, he said it was Pakistan’s own initiative, saying he felt encouraged after his meeting with Rouhani.
“I will go to Saudi Arabia with a positive mind. We would like to play the role of a facilitator and not mediator. We want to facilitate two brotherly Islamic countries.
“It is a complex situation but it can be resolved.
Khamenei told Khan that U.S.-allied Gulf Arab States were “under the will of the United States” and warned that any attacker would regret taking action against Iran, according to state television. “Ending the war in Yemen will have a positive impact on the region.”
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Sunday that Riyadh had not asked Islamabad to mediate.
The minister told reporters in Riyadh the Pakistani prime minister was acting “on his own initiative” and said Iranians needed “to change their behavior, their policies if they want countries to deal with them as with normal countries.”
Iran’s foreign ministry said before Khan’s visit that Tehran was ready for talks with Riyadh with or without a mediator.
Rouhani told the news conference after meeting Khan that “any effort based on goodwill is welcomed … during the meeting, we agreed that the regional issues can be resolved through diplomacy and through dialogue between countries.”
Source: Reuters and News Agencies