After hajj row, Tehran, Riyadh trade barbs over Iraq

After hajj row, Tehran, Riyadh trade barbs over Iraq
Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday slammed the comments of his Saudi counterpart who had called on Iran to end its involvement in Iraq.
2 min read
02 June, 2016
Zarif described his Saudi counterpart's comments as "arrogant" [AFP]

Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday said that Tehran had no intention of leaving Iraq in response to comments made by the Saudi foreign minister earlier in the week.

"We will leave Iraq whenever Iraq asks us to. And we will help Iraq to confront terrorism, as long as Iraq wants us to," Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a press conference in Stockholm during a European tour to attract investors.

Zarif also described Saudi accusations that his country is stoking sectarian violence as "arrogant".

On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of sowing "sedition and division" in Iraq, and urged Tehran to "stop intervening" in the affairs of its neighbours.

But Zarif, whose country is locked into an escalating regional rivalry with Saudi Arabia, scoffed at Jubeir’s remarks.

"It's an absurd statement, it's an arrogant statement. Nobody should arrogate themselves to talk on behalf of other countries," he said in English.

Tehran and Riyadh, a traditional ally of Washington, are at odds over a raft of regional issues, notably the conflicts in Syria and Yemen in which they support opposing sides.

Iran has advisors on the ground in Iraq and also in Syria to help the military in both countries battle armed groups fighting the national governments.

Saudi Arabia is also taking part in a US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Without naming names, Zarif warned countries which consider groups such as IS and the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front as "leverages that can be used for political gains".

"That's the worst miscalculation anybody has made in our region," he said.

"I believe the sooner Saudi Arabia comes to understand that ISIS is first and foremost a threat against them, then, anybody else, the sooner we are able to confront this total menace for all of us, not only in the region but in the world," Zarif added, using another acronym for the Islamic State group.