Iran Guards Escalate Spat With Saudi Arabia Over Yemen

The head of Iran’s revolutionary guards accused Saudi Arabia of “mass murdering” civilians in Yemen, escalating a spat with the kingdom over the conflict in the impoverished country.

Mohammad Ali Jafari said the Saudi ruling family is “on the verge of collapse,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, in one of the harshest recent attacks against Saudi Arabia by an Iranian official. The kingdom is “shamelessly bombing and mass murdering a population that’s seeking to oppose an oppressive regime,” he said.

The Saudi-led bombing of Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, which started in March, has increased tension between Iran and the Sunni-ruled kingdom, which have traditionally been on opposite ends of conflicts in the Middle East. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the bombing a genocide, though criticism from other officials has been more measured.

Saudi Arabia has carried out airstrikes in Yemen even after announcing last week it would scale back operations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the continued bombing.

The Saudi announcement of an end to the first phase of its air campaign was “predicated on the notion that people would freeze in place,” and that didn’t happen as the Houthis were “taking advantage” of the pause, Kerry said at a press conference in New York.

The rebels seized the presidential residence in Aden on Monday, Sky News Arabia reported. At least 16 civilians were killed in the latest clashes in the southern port, health officials said. Aden was the last stronghold of Yemen’s Saudi-backed president, Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, before he fled the country last month.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies accuse the Houthis of being tools used by Shiite-ruled Iran to expand its influence in the region. While the rebels have broadened ties with the Islamic Republic since seizing the capital Sana’a last year, they deny taking orders from Tehran. European and U.S. officials have expressed skepticism about the degree of Iranian involvement.

Iran complained to the International Committee of the Red Cross last week that Saudi Arabia blocked humanitarian aid sent to Yemen.

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