Iran denies top general called Saudi, not Israel, its enemy

Tehran slams ‘false’ Egyptian report quoting IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, reiterates ‘all-out support for the holy cause of Palestine’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, attends a press conference in Tehran in 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, attends a press conference in Tehran in 2012. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Iran has dismissed as “false” reports in Arab media that quoted the commander of its powerful Revolutionary Guards as saying that Saudi Arabia was the greatest enemy of the Islamic Republic, rather than Israel.

An article published over the weekend on Egypt’s Al-Watan daily, titled “Iran: Saudi Arabia is our enemy, not Israel,” attributed the remarks to IRGC General Mohammad Ali Jafari.

“The title, content and conclusion of the article have been written based on changes to the reality, references to some unprofessional news reports and false attributions to the Iranian official,” Iran’s Interests Section in Egypt said in a statement on Sunday, according to Tehran’s semi-official Tasnim News.

“Tehran’s principled policy about the nature of Israeli occupation and its state-sponsored terrorism as well as Iran’s all-out support for the holy cause of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is clear to everyone in the region and the world,” the statement said.

Fearing Tehran will become emboldened by the lifting of international sanctions under the terms of the nuclear deal, Sunni Saudi Arabia in recent months has repeatedly accused Shiite Iran of interference in Arab affairs, particularly in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain.

Riyadh has also been particularly concerned by US backing for the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers last year, which saw the lifting of crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Since the ascension to the throne of King Salman early last year, Saudi Arabia has adopted a more assertive foreign policy in the region, and is leading a mainly Arab coalition in fighting Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, as well as taking part in US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Last week, the Arab League declared Iran ally Hezbollah a “terrorist” group after Gulf monarchies did the same earlier this month over the Shiite group’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war.

The Egyptian report citing Jafari’s statements comes a month after Riyadh cut ties with Tehran following demonstrations in Iran in which its embassy and a consulate were torched. Those demonstrations were in protest at Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in the country.

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