Don’t help Iran spread mischief, Al Jubeir warns world

Saudi Arabia speaking to European countries about weaknesses in Iran nuclear agreement

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir gestures during an interview with Reuters in Munich, Germany, February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Dubai: In an interview with CNBC Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al Jubeir, has sounded the alarm over the growing dangers of Iran’s expanding influence in the region if left unchecked.

On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Al Jubeir said that Iran has funded proxies all over the region which threaten not only Arab states but also the international community.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

Q: America’s top National Security Advisor has said that companies, and European nations like Germany that do business with Iran are essentially writing a blank cheque to the revolutionary Iranian Guard. Do you agree?

A: Yes. We are talking to our friends in Europe about this. We are letting them know that the nuclear agreement that was signed with Iran is lacking. The sunset provision has to be amended, and the inspections have to broadened to include non-declared and military sites. We also believe the nuclear agreement itself does not resolve the issue of Iran’s radical behaviour which has to do with the ballistic missile resolutions of the United Nations, exporting ballistic missiles that are used to target civilians. They also do not deal with the issue of Iran’s support for terrorism, we believe that Iran should be made to pay a price for its violations of ballistic missile resolutions, and for its support of terrorism.

And we believe that a large percentage of the Iranian economy is controlled by the revolutionary guards and companies associated with the guards.

And we believe that any dealings with those companies only serve to enrich the revolutionary guards and cause them to cause more mischief within the region and the world.

Q: Speaking of that mischief, when we talk about what happens next regionally—what is Saudi Arabia’s plan to tackle what H.R. McMaster has essentially said Iranian backed militias that are growing to be growing in various countries like Hezbollah

A: The danger is that Iran planted Hezbollah in Lebanon over 30 years ago. Hezbollah has become the foremost terrorist organisation in the world.

The Iranians have planted Al Houthis in Yemen and they are growing and seeking to take over a strategically important country.

They are trying to establish Hezbollah-like organisations in the region. We have a plan which I won’t discuss on national television.

Q: When you look at what is happening in the energy space in particular, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Russia’s relationship now with Saudi Arabia whether it be on oil, or on other economic opportunities or investment. What about nuclear?

A: We are developing very strong relations with Russia, and we continue to work on those relations and so our objective is to have the best relations we can with every country.

We are looking at a number of countries that have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

We are looking at the issue of the viability of building nuclear reactors in order to produce energy so that we can save the oil and export it in order to generate revenue.

The countries that we are talking to are probably roughly 10 countries or so around the world and we have made a decision yet with regards to which path we will take and which country will be focusing on more.

Q: Recently we’ve seen Iraq looking for investment and aid. Both countries in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE really stepped up there. What are you trying to achieve?

A: We want to support Iraq in its rebuilding efforts. We want to have the best relations with Iraq that we possibly can.

We have an embassy in Baghdad and intend to open a consulate in Basra and Najaf.

We are opening bridges border crossings, we have commercial airline traffic between the two countries.

We have established a coordinating council between our two governments to enhance the relationship and to institutionalise it across the board. We have seen trade and investment skyrocket between the two countries.

We intend to have closer political consultations with our brothers in Iraq, and we intend to have the best possible relations with them.

When the donor’s conference was put together at the invitation of the emir of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates the other Gulf countries stepped up and provided almost a third of the 30 billion dollars that was pledged to Iraq. So we want to help Iraq back on its feet. The ironic thing here is that the Iranians have pledged zero.

Q: Can you give us any sense of when we might end up seeing a meeting between the Qataris and the Saudis in Washington?

A: The issue of Qatar abuse will be resolved within the GCC and it will be resolved within the region.

With regards to the timing of the resolution of this issue it’s really up to the countries they know what’s expected of them and they need to take the steps necessary to stop their behaviour, their negative behaviour and become a respectable member of the GCC. But we haven’t seen that so far, they’ve taken some steps but not enough.

Q: Finally, the Munich Security Conference—a major focus on cyber security. Saudi Arabia has been the victim in the past from cyber attacks from Iran. What steps are you taking specifically to combat that threat?

A: We are taking all the steps necessary to provide defences for our data banks and for our Internet and so forth. And we are also taking steps necessary to train our own people in order to be able to engage in offensive operations to make it hopefully impossible for people to penetrate those systems. Iran is the only country that has attacked us repeatedly. In fact, they tried to do it on a weekly basis.

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