Iran Says Unilateral Restraint in Saudi Conflict Not Sustainable

Iran, wary of escalating tensions in the Middle East, has exercised restraint in the developing conflict with Saudi Arabia, but needs reciprocation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a New York Times opinion piece.

“Iran, confident of its strength, has refused to retaliate or break — or even downgrade — diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia,” Zarif wrote. “We have until now responded with restraint; but unilateral prudence is not sustainable.”

Friction between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Iran spiked this month with the execution of Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite dissident. After a mob in Tehran attacked the Saudi embassy, the government in Riyadh severed diplomatic and some commercial ties, and several allies followed suit. Iran’s cabinet has banned Saudi-made imports.

The breakdown in relations between the two regional powerhouses comes as Shiite-majority Iran prepares for the removal of sanctions imposed in 2012 over Tehran’s nuclear program.

In the op-ed, Zarif said Saudi Arabia has been trying to block the finalization of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He also accused Saudi and its surrogates of targeting Iranian diplomatic facilities in Yemen, Lebanon and Pakistan over the past three years.

“The president and I have indicated publicly and privately our readiness to engage in dialogue, promote stability and combat destabilizing extremism,” he wrote. “This has fallen on deaf ears in Saudi Arabia.”

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