Saudi Minister: only maximum pressure will bring Iran to negotiations

Two months after being targeted by devastating Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, Riyadh is stepping up efforts to secure global deterrence against Tehran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is currently on an extensive tour of the West, where he has repeatedly urged both Europe and the United States to maintain the Trump Administration’s ‘maximum pressure campaign’ against the Ayatollah Regime. The top Saudi diplomat also focused on Iranian involvement in nearly every regional conflict during public sessions, as well as his many interviews.

That was one of Jubeir’s main talking points while speaking at the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, where he said, “Whether it is in Lebanon, whether it is in Syria, whether it is in Iraq, whether it is in Yemen, whether it is in Afghanistan, whether it is in trying to destabilize the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia. Whether it is providing ballistic missiles to terrorist organization that use them against civilians, whether those organizations are Houthis, or whether it is Hezbollah — The Iranians are on a rampage and have been on a rampage since 1979.”

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), when the Trump Administration reimposed punitive economic measures against Iran and enforced an additional series of others in a bid to force the Islamic Republic to renegotiate its disputed nuclear development program. Tehran has since demanded the European signatories do more to salvage the international pact while simultaneously abandoning many of its atomic obligations.

There’s also been an escalation in the Persian Gulf, including a series of attacks on merchant vessels the U.S. and others have blamed on Iran.  The Trump Administration joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by designating Iran’s Islamic Republican Guards Corps a terrorist organization in April 2019 and deployed additional forces to the region the following month in response to intelligence reports of imminent threats to U.S. interests in the region. Following the shooting down of a U.S. surveillance drone by Iran in June, U.S. Central Command launched Operation Sentinel, which later evolved into the International Maritime Security Construct, to ensure security of commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman. Participating nations include the U.S. Bahrain, the United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and contribution of Israeli intelligence.

Minister Jubeir sought to warn all nations -particularly France, Britain and Germany –against adopting ‘a policy of appeasement’ over Iran’s disputed nuclear development program. In a scathing indictment, he accused Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of blatantly lying about Tehran’s true intentions and repeated contradictions. “The Supreme Leader of Iran has said, issued a Fatwa (Islamic ruling) saying that having a nuclear weapon violates the tenets of Islam. If that is their position, they should have no problem giving up the unlimited enrichment that they would get twelve years after the signing of the (2015 nuclear) deal. So why don’t they do that?”

Al-Jubeir also placed emphasis on his nation’s alliance with the U.S., particularly concerning Iran. “We supported President Trump when he withdrew from the JCPOA and we support the policy of maximum pressure,” adding “It is really up to the Iranians to come to the table and make an agreement that actually stands.”

The Saudi Minister of State continued to stress these topics in Paris today, where he participated in talks with French officials over strategies to defuse hostilities between the United States and the Islamic Republic. “We think that appeasement doesn’t work,” Jubeir told the Liberation newspaper, underscoring “Actions count, not words.”

In response to questions over recent French attempts to bring the United States and Iran together, including the lifting of sanctions, Jubeir reiterated that in Riyadh’s view, “maximum pressure is the only way” to get Tehran to return to negotiations.

He also pointed out that “Members of the Iranian government talk, but have no power. Those who have, like the Revolutionary Guards, don’t want to negotiate.”

French President Emmanuel Macron made ultimately failed efforts to diminish hostilities last month, by offering to mediate talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York. While Trump steadfastly maintains the door to negotiations remains open, Iranian officials insist there will no talks without until all punitive sanctions have been dropped.

Jubeir’s talks in Paris were also topped by discussion on ways to support Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists end a power struggle in the port of Aden. Riyadh’s Minister voice optimism when asked about the status of talks between the sides. “We are trying to reach peace between the (separatist) Southern Transition Council (STC) and the Hadi government. I think we are close,” he said, adding that it is crucial the conflict be ended so that greater attention could be directed toward combating Iran’s Houthi proxy and al-Qaeda militants.