On Tuesday an Iranian media outlet posted a gruesome video that further escalated tensions in the region. The video threatened to hit the UAE and the capital of Saudi Arabia with missile strikes. The Fars News Agency, which posted the Iran video, is known to be linked with the hard-line Revolutionary Guard.
Iran video was a warning for UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia
The Iran video showed footage of ballistic missiles which were previously launched by the Guard, which is the paramilitary force that fully controls Iran’s ballistic missile program. The video also showed a graphic of a sniper long range rifle scope trained on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. In addition to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Iran video also threatened Israel, according to the Associated Press.
In the Iran video, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is heard saying, “The era of the hit-and-run has expired… Heavy punishment is underway.”
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The clip is taken from a speech that Khamenei gave in April. Fars later deleted the video but gave no reason for it.
This latest video comes just days after a weekend militant attack on an Iranian military parade. Khamenei blamed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for the attack on Saturday, which killed at least 24 people and injured more than 60.
On Tuesday Iranian authorities also identified the five militants who carried out the attack. According to Iran’s intelligence ministry, the parade attack was mounted by “jihadist separatists.” In a statement on its website, the ministry said the five people who carried out the attack belong to separatist groups “supported by Arab reactionary” countries.
The ministry also said the foreign sponsors and supporters of the parade attack have been identified as well.
“More information will be provided on them in due course,” the agency said.
Though authorities are blaming Arab separatists for the attack, the Islamic State group has also claimed responsibility for the attack. It must be noted that two of the five men identified by Iranian authorities have appeared in a video by the Islamic State.
Iran vs. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has rejected the “deplorable false accusations” that it was involved in the attack.
“Saudi Arabia’s policy is clear regarding its non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In fact, Saudi Arabia accused Iran of interfering in the matters of its neighbors and even called it a “leading sponsor of terrorism in the region and the world.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia severed ties in January 2016, and it is not just Iran making threats. Previously, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned Iran of the consequences if it uses military action or breaches the kingdom’s national security.
“We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi prince said in a 2017 interview.
Experts agree the latest parade attack will escalate tensions in the region but that a direct military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is unlikely. The fact that Saudi Arabia is already engaged in a costly military battle like the one in Yemen lowers the chances of direct military action.
Are missile strikes a possibility?
Iran has launched two ballistic missile strikes in recent years. One strike occurred in 2017 in response to an attack by the Islamic State on Tehran. At the time, the missile strikes targeted IS hideouts in Syria. The second missile strike targeted a meeting of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.
Iran has limited the range of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometers. Such a range allows Iran to carry out missile strikes on Israel, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and regional American military bases.
On Monday, Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guards’ acting commander, vowed to take revenge on those conspiring against his nation, hinting at what he called the “triangle” of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Khamenei also warned that the attack showed Iran has “a lot of enemies.” He also linked the attackers to the UAE, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
“Definitely, we will harshly punish the operatives” responsible for the attack, he said in remarks posted on his website. Khamenei has the final say on all state-related matters.