February 10, 2015 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1144

Tehran Threatens Saudi Arabia; Khamenei: Iran Will Answer Saudi Arabia 'A Blow With A Blow'

February 10, 2015 | By A. Savyon, Yossi Mansharof, and U. Kafash*
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1144

Following Saudi Arabia's continued rejection of Iran's demand in recent months to stop bringing down oil prices with its high production levels,[1] in the latter half of January 2015 Iranian spokesmen, particularly Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stepped up their threats to respond to Saudi Arabia by means of "a blow with a blow."[2] On January 17, the Iranian website Tasnim, which is affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), published a multi-level threat by Tehran Friday prayer headquarters director Yadollah Shirmardi stating that "all the arteries of oil transport - from Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz - are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles." He added that Tehran's response would be in the region, and would also be directed against Saudi allies, in the UAE and Bahrain. The Iranian news agency Mehr, which is also affiliated with the IRGC, hinted that there would be a Shi'ite uprising in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain against the Aal-Saud regime.

It should be noted that even before the January 23, 2015 death of Saudi King 'Abdallah bin Abd Al-'Aziz, Iranian sources had "reported" on his death via vicious cartoons against him. After his death, representatives of both the pragmatic and the ideological camp in Iran warned the new king, Salman, that he must change the royal house's policy vis-à-vis Iran, and repeated its rhetoric about the imminent end of the Aal Saud rule.

This paper will review the recent escalation of Iran's threats against Saudi Arabia:

Website Of Supreme Leader Khamenei's Office: Iran Has Approval To Act Against Saudi Arabia

On January 15, 2015, the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published on its website an excerpt from a February 24, 1990 interview, against the backdrop of a drastic drop in oil prices at that time. The excerpt, which was titled "We Will Answer A Blow With A Blow," included Khamenei's threat to act against Saudi Arabia, after accusing it of being party to a Western plot against Iran on the grounds that its oil policy deviated from OPEC's decisions. The following are the main points of the interview excerpt:

"It saddens us that some OPEC members are not being properly assertive against this plot. There are even signs that show us that in effect they are party to this plot. We cannot ignore this plot. Countries such as Algeria and Libya acted properly in light of the plot, and at a tripartite meeting with us vehemently expressed their stand. But unfortunately, several countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not cooperate, and did not join [Iran] in this matter. The Saudis even declared that they were deciding for themselves regarding their oil sales, and that they were not bound by OPEC. This was at a time when Saudi Arabia's obligation to OPEC would not harm it but [only] benefit it...

"'What Saudi Arabia says it wants to do, that is, to decide its own [oil] production quotas, and with regard to price, harms Saudi Arabia as well. If they [the Saudis] remain obligated to OPEC and do not violate their cooperation with OPEC, it will not harm them, it will be for their own good. The [Saudi] conduct vis-à-vis OPEC is intolerable; it is a blow to OPEC and a blow to the Muslim nations, and we must say that we will answer a blow with a blow. We cannot remain indifferent on this issue, particularly when it concerns not only us, but most of the OPEC states, and harms them much more than us...

"We have a long border on the Persian Gulf waters, and we have approval to act assertively on this level as far as global public opinion and international law are concerned. This is because several countries have declared, and agreed, to sell oil to Iraq. Iraq is a country that is in a state of war against us, and as the whole world agrees, we can examine commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz in order to see whether it is carrying something for Iraq or not, and as everyone will agree, if one day we decided [to do this], we will confiscate the oil sold to Iraq, or oversee [oil] sales. Therefore, as you notice, these countries that are now talking about failure to coordinate with OPEC are also vulnerable... We want to recommend again to these countries to cooperate with OPEC, and to stress that they must give priority to doing so, because this will be for their own good and for OPEC's good."[3]

Khamenei Tweets Threat To Saudi Arabia: "We Will Answer A Blow With A Blow"

On January 17, 2015, Khamenei's office also tweeted, in English, via its official account, its 1990 threat to Saudi Arabia about responding blow for blow, along with an image of Khamenei: "We can't stay indifferent esp. that it is not just our problem; many nations get hurt far more than we do. #Oil #OPEC" The image said: "A blow against OPEC, by crashing oil prices by any sides, is a blow against Islamic and independent nations. We will answer a blow with a blow. Ayatollah Khamenei, 24/2/1990.", January 17, 2015.

Tehran Friday Prayer Headquarters Director: "All The Arteries Of Oil Transport... Are Under Iranian Control, By Means Of Syria, Yemen, And Bahrain, And Within Range Of Iranian Missiles"

On January 17, 2015, the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, published an article by Tehran Friday Prayer Headquarters director Yadollah Shirmardi, titled "Iran's Patience For Mercenary Regimes In The Region Has Its Limits." The article stated:

"Along with the imminent demise of King 'Abdallah, Saudi Arabia's turning to the weapon of oil in order to fight the standing of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region is a[nother] kind of death rattle, that is supported by the West, chiefly America. It is a strategic mistake to believe that the Aal Saud regime has committed political suicide without a green light from the Americans.

"Saudi Arabia's new policy is another piece of the puzzle of sanctions and pressure applied to the Islamic Republic of Iran, taken as a response to two great Iranian victories. The first was Iran's success in overcoming [sanctions] by relying on an economy of resistance, although the sanctions were stepped up, not eased, in the recent negotiations, while at the same time it is gradually reducing its dependence on oil revenue. Iran's second victory was on the battlefield. The shears of extremism and terrorism, one blade American-Zionist and one blade Wahhabi-takfiri, cannot cut on the battlefield. Iran has had great successes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and so on, and, with its soft influence, it is reviving the 'New West Asia' plan.

"In this new plan, nationalism and pan-Arabism are pushed aside and replaced with the term 'the United Islamic Nation.' With this game [i.e. using oil against Iran], Saudi Arabia has become an American toy, and, if it continues down this erroneous path, it will endanger, at the very least, its own interests and national security.

"Iran, as the center of Islamic awakening, shows tremendous patience in [its] foreign policy... But the anger of this patient element has irreversible consequences for the Aal Saud family and their allies in the region, from Aal Nahyan [the UAE royal family] to Aal Khalifa [the Bahraini royal family]. Beware of the patient ones. Saudi Arabia must not depend on sunny days - on the contrary, it must prepare for a stormy day... The nations of the region will not forget the Arab leaders' betrayal by means of reducing oil prices, and revenge will be a minimal punishment for this strategic mistake by Saudi Arabia.

"Today, all the arteries of oil transport - from Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz - are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles. If the need arises, the nations of the region will be informed of Saudi Arabia's and its allies' despicable collaboration with the Zionist regime...

"We must not forget that the campaign of protest by the desperate Riyadh that was launched because of [the possibility] that Iran will sign an agreement with the 5+1 [group] - a campaign carried out by means of artificial moves by [Saudi Foreign Minister] Saud Al-Faisal during his visit to Vienna at the margins of the Iran-5+1 negotiations - is a deceptive game aimed at thwarting the general American strategy [of conducting a dialogue with Tehran] and at ratcheting up the pressure on Iran. Saudi Arabia has no [influential] status in the region's geopolitical balance that would allow it to present its positions as an involved party. Today, Saudi Arabia knows better than any other country that Iran enjoys an exclusive degree of power, despite the threats and pressure...

"The third wave of the Islamic revolution will transcend geographic borders more sweepingly than ever, and today, this discourse [of the Islamic Revolution] is expanding its area of spiritual and soft influence from Kashgar [in western China] to the shores of the Mediterranean. The Islamic awakening has bolstered the resistance and jihad front in the region, and has demonstrated the increasing strength of the Iran front. It has proven that if you join God, He will join you too, and will strengthen your steps...

"Despite all the pressure and sanctions, Iran has become a nuclear state and a member of the world's nuclear club. Another ramification [of this], and result of its scientific and technological achievements, is that it has joined the world's space club... On the military front, the same country that once imported barbed wire is [now] capable of manufacturing a wide array of light and semi-heavy arms, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air cannon for medium and long ranges, and rockets for short, medium, and long ranges, as well as various ballistic missiles and shoulder-[mounted] anti-aircraft missiles..."[4]

Mehr News Agency: Shi'ites In Eastern Saudi Arabia, Yemen, And Bahrain Will Rise Up Against Aal Saud Regime

On January 14, 2015, prior to King 'Abdallah's death, the Mehr news agency published an article titled "The Impact On The Countries Of The Region Of The Transfer Of Power In Saudi Arabia - Fire Under The Ashes" that hinted at an uprising of Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain against the Aal Saud regime. The article also warned Saudi Arabia that its friend Turkey would attempt to divide it, after having done just that in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen:

"Shi'ites make up 15% of Saudi Arabia's population and are demanding their lost rights after suffering discrimination and injustice for years. Noting that this [Shi'ite] population lives in the oil-rich regions in eastern [Saudi Arabia], [even] a minimal move on its part could cause a great crisis for the economic lifeline of the world's largest oil producer...

"Yemen's Shi'ites, who are also displeased by this years-long collaboration between Riyadh and Sana'a in suppressing their rebellion, see the weakness of this godfather [the Saudi royal family] as an opportunity to more easily advance their goals...

"Likewise, because of the Bahraini regime's dependence on Riyadh and its comprehensive support to the Aal Khalifa regime in the suppression of the popular rebellion in Bahrain, any change in the regime or policy of Aal Saud would directly impact the Aal Khalifa regime as well...

"As the heir to the Ottoman Empire, and as a country that for many years controlled a large swath of Arab countries, Turkey is promoting various goals to attain its historic pride and identity. The division and weakening of the countries around it are scripts that Turkey wishes to use to expand its influence in these regions. Part of this plan involved dividing Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. But Saudi Arabia, because its worldview is similar [to Turkey's], assembled the new strategic coalition against the resistance axis and Iran, by supporting takfiri terrorists. But one point less noticed by Saudi officials is that dividing Saudi Arabia is also part of Turkey's plan - and that if this is realized, Turkey will expand its regional influence... over other Islamic countries with the Turkish brand of Islam. Therefore, if the power transfer [in Saudi Arabia] becomes embroiled in crisis, the Ankara government will have a golden opportunity to advance its aims."[5]

Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati: Congratulations To The Muslims On The Death Of King 'Abdallah, Founder Of Takfiris

During Tehran Friday prayers on January 30, 2015, preacher Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who is secretary of Iran's Guardian Council, congratulated the Muslims on the death of King 'Abdallah, explaining that this was a fitting reward for his great hostility towards the Shi'ites and his support of the takfiris, and lashed out at the U.S. and Israel. He said:

"The death of the Saudi ruler, who was very hostile toward the Shi'ites... He was very hostile. He supported the takfiris. He founded them. They wrote so many books and vilified the Shi'ites so much. They leveled accusations against them, slandered them, and told lies about them. He got what he deserved. Now he is getting what he deserves.

"Condolences should be extended to the Israelis and Americans, who supported him and often ate at his table. Condolences should be extended to them, and congratulations should be extended to the Muslims and people who care about the Shi'ites."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here.

Iranian Publications Feature Cartoons Against Saudi King 'Abdallah

Weeks before King 'Abdallah's death, Iranian sources were reporting that his demise was imminent:

A dying King 'Abdallah terrified by angels in the form of Bahraini, Syrian, and Iraqi youths who died in battle (source: Tasnim, Iran, January 18, 2015)

"King 'Abdallah could die in the next three days" (source: Tasnim, Iran, January 11, 2015)

January 6, 2015 front page of Iranian daily  Vatan-e Emrooz, affiliated with Iran's ultra-conservative circles: "Due to the worsening condition of the Saudi king, oil-exporting nations in the region as well as power-hungry [Saudi] princes eagerly await the announcement of the death! of 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz [emphasis in the original]"

Iranian Warnings To New King Salman: Change Your Country's Policy Towards Us

Alongside the official Iranian condolences to Saudi Arabia on the death of King 'Abdallah, including condolences from pragmatic camp leaders such as Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Hassan Rohani,[6] spokesmen from both camps continued to warn Saudi Arabia and King Salman that their anti-Iran policy must be changed. At the same time, ideological camp mouthpiece Kayhan reiterated the rhetoric that has been characteristic of this camp's statements in recent weeks, i.e. that the Aal Saud regime faced collapse and popular rebellion at home.

Kayhan front page, January 25, 2015:"Media, Experts: Aal Saud Regime Will Collapse from Within"

Kayhan: The Saudi People Considers The Aal Saud Regime The Source Of Its Shame, And Yearns For Its Collapse

On January 25, 2015, the day after King 'Abdallah's death, Kayhan's front page stated: "The Saudi regime is now rotting fruit, and all observers and experts inside and outside Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world expect its collapse, and are counting down the minutes [to it].

"The Saudi people, which sees this crumbling regime as the source of its shame among the nations, yearns for the day that it will awaken from its slumber and hear of the collapse of [the regime of] Aal Saud...

"The experts point to the conspicuous absence of the people at 'Abdallah's funeral. The people did not show up at the royal Al-Oud cemetery in southern Riyadh, and official Saudi TV coverage of the ceremony... showed none of the people, only hundreds of crown princes, old and young... The Saudi people sees the ruling royal family as its greatest obstacle to prosperity, and as the country's real problem, and attributes, justifiably, all the corruption [in Saudi Arabia] to it...

"The result of this change and these upheavals will apparently be the nearing of the end of the existence of the Aal Saud [regime]."[7]

Head Of The Conference Of Support For The Palestinian Uprising: King Salman Should Correct Saudi Arabia's Erroneous Policy

In a January 23, 2015 ISNA interview, Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, head of the Conference of Support for the Palestinian Uprising and advisor to Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, called on King Salman to effect a comprehensive change in Saudi foreign policy: "The new Saudi king has an opportunity to make up for past mistakes, especially the erroneous policy regarding Palestine... the expansion of terrorism, the strengthening of the reconciliation [front] against the resistance, and the operations against the resistance [axis]. He can even change [Saudi Arabia's] anti-popular and undemocratic monarchical system... Saudi Arabia has supported the presence of arrogant and foreign forces [i.e. the West] in the region, and it needs to reconsider doing so.

"As for King Salman's desire for an Israeli-Palestinian peace - this is impossible, because the Zionists need to leave the occupied lands..."[8]

On January 24, 2015, as news broke of King 'Abdallah's death, the Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, published cartoons mocking him:

King 'Abdallah arrives in Hell: Devil on right: "the Master and us... in the furnace of hell, already"; devil on left; "welcome" (source: Fars, January 24, 2015).

King 'Abdallah - "Game Over," from throne to grave (source: Fars, January 24, 2015).

Etemaad: King 'Abdallah - An Influential Figure In The Terror Project Of Groups Like Al-Qaeda And ISIS

In a January 25, 2015 article titled "On The Occasion of the Death of King 'Abdallah," the Iranian daily Etemaad, which is affiliated with the pragmatic camp, stated that "this religion [i.e. Wahhabi Islam], that has become the bearer of terrorism, destruction, divisiveness, and religious zealotry that slits throats, kills, burns, and takes hostages for ransom, is not bound by any moral, human, or Islamic principle. The Islam promoted and spread by Saudi petrodollars and Wahhabi theoreticians has given humanity a sinister infant inflicting only misery, evil, war, bloodshed, and ruin - Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and Boko Haram.

"King 'Abdallah was one of most influential figures in this massive project. Although on occasion he would decide to speak and act differently in various marginal issues, this ill-favored offspring of his has grown so big and fat that it became unrestrainable, turned into a monster, and escaped from its cage.

"Students of the school of [medieval Muslim Sunni scholar] Ibn Taymiyyah and disciples of Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab [the founder of Wahhabism] are a warning bell for the peoples of the world and of the Middle East; they are even a double-edged sword hanging over the heads of the Saudi political regime. Has the time not come for Saudi rulers to rethink the bitter truth - i.e. that Saudi citizens make up the majority of groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS?"[9]

* A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof and U. Kafash are Research Fellows at MEMRI.


[3], January 15, 2015.

[4] Tasnim (Iran), January 17, 2015.

[5] Mehr (Iran), January 14, 2015.

[6] Fars (Iran), January 23, 2015.

[7] Kayhan (Iran), January 25, 2015.

[8] ISNA (Iran), January 23, 2015.

[9] Etemaad (Iran), January 25, 2015.

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