The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated another notch on Monday morning, as the Saudis announced the suspension of air travel to and from Iran.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Saudi citizens will be completely banned from traveling to Iran until relations are normalized.
Reuters reports the Saudis will cancel “trade links” with Iran as well, until Iran begins “acting like a normal country.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters these measures were a reaction to “Iranian aggression,” going beyond the flashpoint attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran to include Iranian efforts to destabilize the region.
“There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia. Our moves are all reactive. It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” said Jubeir.
He insisted that Saudi Arabia acted properly when it executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr as part of a mass execution over the weekend, accusing Nimr of “agitating, organizing cells, and providing them with weapons and money.” Jubeir said his government should be “applauded” for the executions, not criticized.
The Saudis have one more, most likely apocalyptic, card to play, but according to Jubeir they are not going to play it just yet: he emphasized that Iranian pilgrims would still be welcome to make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, although presumably they will not be able to fly directly into Saudi Arabia if the air travel ban remains in effect.