Tehran cannot rule out the possibility of a military conflict breaking out in the region as a result of tensions stemming from last week’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities by Yemen’s Houthi militants, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said.
“I am not confident that we can avoid a war,” Zarif warned, speaking to the CBS Sunday TV programme Face the Nation.
“I’m confident that we will not start one, but I’m confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it,” the foreign minister added. “That means that there won’t be a limited war,” he clarified.
Asked to comment on the US decision to send a ‘moderate number of forces’ and some ‘defensive equipment’ to Saudi Arabia following last Saturday’s attacks by the Houthi militia on its oil facilities, Zarif said Iran was opposed to the idea.
“I don’t think this type of posturing helps,” he said. “I think what helps would be to end the war in Yemen…I think it’s all going the wrong direction in addressing this issue,” the foreign minister said.
WSJ: Houthis Say 'Iran Planning Follow-Up Attacks'
On Friday, a Wall Street Journal report citing 'informed anonymous sources' alleged that senior Houthi officials had 'warned foreign diplomats' that Iran, which has denied any involvement in last week's attacks, was "preparing a follow-up strike" to the ones which "crippled Saudi Arabia's oil industry". Houthi officials were said to have 'raised the alarm' about the possible attacks "after they were pressed by Iran to play a role in it," the WSJ claimed, citing sources.
Iranian and Houthi officials have yet to comment on the WSJ story. The Yemeni militia had previously repeatedly claimed responsibility for last Saturday's attacks, and called efforts to suggest that anyone other than themselves was responsible a sign of "cowardice".
Separately Friday, Yemen’s Houthi militia movement officially warned that Saudi Arabia would face new, “more painful, deadly and destructive” attacks if the Saudi-led coalition’s “ongoing shelling, blockade and aggression” of Yemen continued.
On Saturday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, who has also blamed Iran for last week oil facility attacks, stressed that Saudi Arabia would “do whatever it takes to prevent our country from sustaining damages,” while adding that “war is always the last option”.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran began escalating last week, after Houthi militants launched drone attacks against two major Saudi Aramco oil facilities, temporarily shutting down a major proportion of the country’s energy production capabilities. While the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, the United States almost immediately blamed Iran, and claimed that the attacks were launched from Iranian airspace and used Iranian weapons systems.
The Houthis have launched dozens of missile and drone attacks against military and infrastructure targets in Saudi Arabia over the past several years, striking everything from airports and military bases to US missile defence systems and cities using small drones and ballistic missiles. A coalition of mostly Gulf countries began a military intervention in Yemen in March 2015, seeking to defeat the Houthis and restore ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power. The coalition has accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with advanced weapons. Iran has denied these claims, pointing to the tight blockade in place against the war-torn country.