WASHINGTON — Iran said Wednesday that media reports that it is planning to strike Saudi Arabia are baseless and merely an effort by “Zionist regimes” to discredit Tehran and ruin its diplomatic advances in the region.
The remarks from Iran’s mission to the UN came the day after three US officials said Saudi Arabia has shared intelligence with American officials that suggests Iran could be preparing for an imminent attack on the kingdom.
Iran’s UN mission told The Associated Press the US claims are “baseless.”
“Western and Zionist regimes spread biased news aimed at creating a negative mood towards the Islamic Republic of Iran and destroying the current positive trends with regional countries,” the mission said.
On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry similarly dismissed the “biased and baseless” attack reports as coming from the United States and Israel.
Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said their aim was to create “a negative atmosphere against the Islamic Republic of Iran and destroy the positive process underway with the countries in the region.”
By contrast, he said, his country’s “policy is based on mutual respect and international principles” and it “continues its policy of good neighborliness.”
Iran “believes that the promotion of stability and security in the region requires increasing interaction with its neighbors and it intends to continue seriously in this direction,” Kanani told reporters.
The Wall Street Journal had cited officials as saying Saudi Arabia, the US and several other neighboring states had raised the level of alert for their armed forces in response to the intelligence warning.
Saudi officials told the US newspaper Iran was poised to attack the kingdom and Arbil in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region in a bid to distract from protests that flared in the Islamic republic over the death of Mahsa Amini in September.
The heightened concerns about a potential attack on Saudi Arabia come as US President Joe Biden’s administration is criticizing Tehran for its crackdown on widespread protests and condemning it for sending hundreds of drones — as well as technical support — to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.
“We are concerned about the threat picture, and we remain in constant contact through military and intelligence channels with the Saudis,” the US National Security Council said in a statement Tuesday. “We will not hesitate to act in the defense of our interests and partners in the region.”
Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment.
One of the officials who confirmed the intelligence sharing described it as a credible threat of an attack “soon or within 48 hours.” No US embassy or consulate in the region has issued alerts or guidance to Americans in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East based on the intelligence. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked about reports of the intelligence shared by the Saudis, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said US military officials “are concerned about the threat situation in the region.”
“We’re in regular contact with our Saudi partners, in terms of what information they may have to provide on that front,” Ryder said. “But what we’ve said before, and I’ll repeat it, is that we will reserve the right to protect and defend ourselves no matter where our forces are serving, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said America was “concerned about the threat picture,” without elaborating.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the Saudis sharing the intelligence earlier on Tuesday. Iran has alleged without providing evidence that Saudi Arabia and other rivals are fomenting the dissent on its streets by ordinary Iranians.
Of particular ire is protest coverage by Iran International, a London-based, Farsi-language satellite news channel once majority-owned by a Saudi national.
The US and Saudis accused Iran in 2019 of being behind a major attack in eastern Saudi Arabia, which halved the oil-rich kingdom’s production and caused energy prices to spike. The Iranians denied they were behind the attack, but the same triangle-shaped, bomb-carrying drones used in that attack are now being deployed by Russian forces in their war on Ukraine.
The Saudis have also been hit repeatedly in recent years by drones, missiles and mortars launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia formed a coalition to battle the Houthis in 2015 and has been internationally criticized for its airstrikes in the war, which have killed scores of civilians.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials for the brutal crackdown on demonstrators after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September after her arrest by Iran’s morality police. The administration has also hit Iran with sanctions for supplying drones to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.
Iran already launched a series of attacks targeting Kurdish separatist positions in northern Iraq amid the protests, killing at least 16 people, including an American citizen.