Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has rebutted a column by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in the New York Times last week with a column of his own in the Wall Street Journal, describing Iran as “the leading state-sponsor of terrorism” and “Khomeinism” as the greatest Islamic threat to the world today.
Al-Jubeir asserts that, while Iran has condemned Saudi Arabia for propagating the radical Islamist ideology of Wahhabism around the world, Iran has been busy directly funding terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
“When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made public pronouncements about fighting extremism, the facts show that his comments are ironic at best and little more than insincere propaganda,” al-Jubeir writes. He lists a number of terrorist attacks directly affecting the United States that investigations later tied to Iranian government officials: “suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport; the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; attacks against more than a dozen embassies in Iran, including those of Britain, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia; and the assassination of diplomats around the world.”
“Iran cannot talk about fighting extremism while its leaders, Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard continue to fund, train, arm and facilitate acts of terrorism,” he continues, arguing that these groups also operate in areas like Yemen and Iraq to agitate radical Shiite Muslims in the region. Iran, he adds, also continues to harbor al Qaeda leaders; al-Jubeir fails to mention that many of the most prominent leaders within the Sunni terrorist group are from Saudi Arabia.
The foreign minister takes some time noting the damage that Hezbollah has done to the world’s stability as one of the wealthiest terror groups in the world, largely funded with Iranian government money. Al-Jubeir concludes by reminding his audience that the Iranian regime’s “principal slogan” is “Death to America!” and claiming that “the rest of the Islamic world has unanimously condemned Iran’s behavior.”
The tone, as well as the accusations, is similar to the column Zarif wrote against Saudi Arabia last week. “Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult,” Zarif wrote of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Sunni theology the Saudi government for decades has promoted. Zarif notably fails to mention Hezbollah in his piece.
This latest exchange in the struggle for regional control between the Sunni and Shiite rivals escalated earlier this month as Muslims prepared to begin celebrating the annual, and mandatory, hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Iranian media began demanding that Muslims call for Saudi Arabia to relinquish control of Mecca and Medina, the religion’s holiest sites, claiming that they have proven irresponsible keepers of the sites after thousands died in a stampede at the hajj last year. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei referred to the leaders of Saudi Arabia as “puny Satans” bending to the will of “great Satan” America that must be taken out of power.
In response, the Saudi Grand Mufti, the highest Muslim authority in the country, argued that Iran’s grievances should be dismissed because Iranians are “not Muslims,” but Zoroastrians.