The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned British PM Boris Johnson for pinning a pair of recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Tehran, and slammed the UK government for its continued arms sales to the Saudi kingdom.
“Instead of making futile efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the British government had better stop the sales of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia… and clear itself of the charge of war crimes against the Yemeni people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement on Monday.
The missive came on the heels of a statement from PM Johnson, issued jointly with his German and French counterparts, pointing the finger at the Islamic Republic for the September 14 Saudi oil field attacks, arguing “there is no other plausible explanation.”
On Tuesday, the prime minister will have his first face-to-face meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani since the attacks, a subject the two leaders are expected to discuss. UK-Iranian relations have deteriorated since July, when the British Royal Navy seized an Iranian tanker and Tehran responded in kind, prompting accusations of “piracy” on both sides.
While Yemen’s Houthi rebels took credit for the September 14 oil facility attacks – among over a dozen similar strikes inside the kingdom the group has claimed in the last year – the United States and Saudi Arabia wasted little time before declaring Iran was behind the blasts. Tehran has maintained its innocence, but the US nevertheless responded by deploying additional troops and other military assets to Saudi Arabia. US allies in Britain, France, and Germany were slower to respond, but appear to have now come around to the “blame Iran” bandwagon.
The attacks – which briefly cut Saudi oil output in half and sent the price for Brent crude soaring by nearly 20 percent – are not the first to be blamed on Iran in recent months. Over the summer, Washington also claimed the country was behind acts of “sabotage” on a number of tanker vessels operating around the Persian Gulf, and capitalized on those incidents to boost the US military presence in the region.
The Houthis have been at war with a coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since March 2015, when the coalition launched a bombing campaign to reinstall Yemeni President Mansour Hadi, who was ousted from power by the rebel Houthis the year prior. The coalition – which receives support from the US and the UK – insists the rebels are backed by Iran, though have yet to offer substantial evidence to back up the allegation.
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