Saudi king denounces Iran’s ‘expansionism’ in fiery UN speech | Center East

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz, on his debut Wednesday at the annual meeting of United Nations heads of state and government, targeted Iran and called for a comprehensive solution to contain Riyadh’s regional rivals and prevent him from receiving weapons of mass destruction.

He said Iran took advantage of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “to intensify its expansionist activities, build its terrorist networks and capitalize on terrorism,” adding that this has spawned nothing but “chaos, extremism and sectarianism”.

“A comprehensive solution and a firm international position are required,” he told the 193-member general assembly in a video statement. “Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions and appeasements have not stopped the threat to international peace and security.”

The 84-year-old ruler said the Middle East has suffered major political and security challenges, blaming Iran for much of the region’s instability. He accused the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon of sowing the political disorder that was ultimately blamed for the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port last month.

“This terrorist organization must be disarmed,” said the king.

“Forces of evil”

Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US official and CEO of political risk advisory firm STRATEGA, noted that King Salman prefixed his comments on Iran with the phrase “forces of evil”. Saudi Arabia is still sensitive to an “unanswered” attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities last year, Tehran was blamed for it.

“That’s still a sore point, and to have the King of Saudi Arabia articulate it before the whole world shows how important the King still attaches to the United States’ dealings with Iran and its policies in the region.” said Man Leverett to Al Jazeera. “It is a question of whether the Trump administration would really come in their defense if something worse happened to them.”

King Salman read from a sheet of paper and sat at a desk under a large portrait of his father. He reiterated the sacred role of Islam in Saudi Arabia, which Muslims believe was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago in the mountain caves of Saudi Arabia in Mecca.

He failed to criticize the recent agreements between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain to establish relations with Israel. In attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the Saudi monarch said an Arab peace initiative from 2002 was the basis for a “comprehensive and just solution” that would ensure the Palestinians get an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital .

“We support the efforts of the current US administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement,” said Salman.

King Salman affirmed the need for a Palestinian state [File: Waleed Ali/AP]

“A real denial”

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the site of its holiest shrines, pioneered the 2002 initiative by which Arab nations offered to normalize relations with Israel in return for a statehood agreement with the Palestinians and full withdrawal of the Israelis from the territory conquered in 1967.

Palestinian leaders have condemned the warming of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel, describing it as a betrayal of their efforts to gain statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mann Leverett noted that there have been reports of differences within the royal family, particularly between King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over whether Saudi Arabia will follow others in the region and normalize relations with Israel.

“So this was an opportunity, publicly, before the world reaffirms Saudi Arabia’s longstanding position … that there must be two states – an independent state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem. This is a clear confirmation of Saudi Arabia’s position and a genuine rejection of the current efforts to push the Arab states to normalize with Israel. That was vital, ”she said.

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