The yawning gap between Tehran and Washington has grown even wider with US President Donald Trump’s latest efforts to isolate Iran, which accused the United States of “milking” Saudi Arabia for petro-dollars.
Trump’s choice of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bitter regional rival, for his first official foreign visit reflects the deep antagonism of his administration towards the Islamic republic.
The US president signed a giant list of deals, worth a total of $380bn, including $110bn for weapons that will invariably find their way into the numerous conflicts of the region, including Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where Riyadh and Tehran often find themselves on opposing sides.
Trump also vilified Iran as the greatest source of instability in the Middle East, though many observers noted the irony that his claims came on the same day that 41 million Iranians enthusiastically took part in elections, with a sizeable majority backing President Hassan Rouhani and his policy of engagement with the world.
He called on all countries to work together to isolate Iran “until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace”.
Analysts fear tensions are growing out of control.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who spearheaded the nuclear negotiations, reacted sarcastically, comparing this weekend’s elections in Iran to the lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia.
“Iran, fresh from real elections, attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy and moderation,” Zarif tweeted, referring to the US president.
Is that a serious foreign policy, he asked, or is the US “simply milking” Saudi Arabia for billions of dollars?
Tehran sees itself as the vital force holding back the advance of the IS jihadist group both in Syria and Iraq.
Shia Iran regularly points to the Saudis’ fundamentalist Wahhabi creed and their efforts to spread it around the Muslim world as the root cause of violent Sunni jihadism.