Tensions Simmer in the Gulf as Kingdom Says it Wants to Avoid War but ‘Will Respond Firmly and Decisively to Any Threat’

Tensions simmered with Iran over the weekend as Saudi Arabia, the United States and allies made it clear war should be avoided at all costs but that they would respond to security threats and defend their interests if necessary.

Following last week’s two attacks on key Saudi energy targets, which the Kingdom blames on Iran and that Iran officially denies, countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began “enhanced security patrols” in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf area on Saturday, according to the US navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. The United States also increased its military presence in the region in response to the threats.

Fighting also broke out again in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue to threaten Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty and security across the border. On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s air forces intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles over Taif, one heading for Mecca and the other for Jeddah, according to reports.

Adel Al-Jubeir.

Adel Al-Jubeir.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called for an emergency meeting of Gulf countries in the face of the extraordinary developments in the region. The United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally, welcomed King Salman’s call to convene the Mecca summits and said the “critical circumstances” in the Middle East called for a united stand by Arab nations, RFERL reports.

The increase in tension and attacks on Saudi oil assets follows months of brewing tensions between the Trump administration and Iran. Just over one year ago, Trump announced that he was pulling the United States out of the so-called Iran deal and started ratcheting sanctions up on Iran’s oil and other key industries, companies, and people.

Saudi Arabia’s Adel Al-Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and member of Saudi Arabia’s cabinet said that Saudi Arabia “will do what it can to prevent this war and, at the same time, it reaffirms that in the event the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with all force and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests.”

President Trump, reacting to recent events on Twitter, took a new, harsher tone on Monday in threats to Iran. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” he said in a tweet on Sunday. “Never threaten the United States again!”