The Iranian government has accused Saudi Arabia of “deliberately” bombing its embassy in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a in an air raid Wednesday night, leaving buildings damaged and a number of staff wounded.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, called the embassy bombing a “deliberate and intentional act by the Saudi Arabian government” and labeled it a “violation of all international conventions and legal treaties regarding the protection and impunity of diplomatic compounds.”
“Iran holds the government of Saudi Arabia responsible for this act and wounding of a number of embassy staff and damages made to its building,” he said.
The Iranians and the Saudis have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen since last March, with a Saudi-led coalition battling Shi’ite Houthi rebels who enjoy the support of Iran.
The Saudi-led coalition has promised to investigate the accusation, according to its spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, though he added that any charge based on information provided by the Houthis has “no credibility.”
Asseri admits that coalition planes carried out heavy air raids in Sana’a on Wednesday night. He said that they were targeting missile launchers used by the Houthi militia, but that they have sometimes used civilian facilities, including abandoned embassies.
He further said that the coalition had asked all countries to provide the coordinates of their diplomatic missions.
On Thursday, Iran announced a ban on importation of any products made in Saudi Arabia, the result of a cabinet meeting chaired by President Hassan Rouhani. Iran had already ruled that the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina would be suspended until Riyadh can ensure “higher safety standards.”
Both Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, and Medina, the spot of the prophet’s burial, are in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Some 500,000 Iranians visit Saudi Arabia every year, many of whom are making the “lesser” pilgrimage or umrah to Mecca and Medina, which can be made at any time of the year.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged Saudi Arabia to stop provoking his country, calling instead for a united Arab front.
“This trend of creating tension must stop. We need to stand united … and stop those who are adding fuel to the fire,” he said.
The Saudi forces in Yemen are backed by Turkey, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE, who fear Iran’s increasing influence in the region.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome