Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]
In a televised speech on Sunday marking the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Rouhani said Iran extends its “hand of friendship and brotherhood” towards countries in the region willing to cooperate in the Tehran-led effort to oversee security in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the global oil industry.
But in response to a recent decision by the United States to send more troops to the area, Rouhani went on to warn against the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf.
“Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” said Rouhani, who will travel to New York later this week for the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN.
Saudi oil attacks
Tensions in the region have reached new heights following attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia last week.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of being behind the attacks on the Saudi Aramco’s plants, responsibility of which was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are locked in in a war with a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition since 2015.
Iran has denied any involvement.
Following the attacks, Washington said it was preparing to send weapons and hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The US is also leading a maritime coalition, which includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UK and Australia, to secure the area’s waterways and key oil trade routes.
In his speech, Rouhani called on the foreign powers in the Gulf region to “stay away”, adding: “If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.”
He said: “Wherever the Americans or our enemies have gone … there has been insecurity afterwards.
“We are not going to violate the borders of other people, in the same way that we will not allow others to violate our territories.”
Rouhani’s speech was largely seen as a rallying call, said Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, where a military parade marked the 39th anniversary of the start of the eight-year war with Iraq that began when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980.
At the parade, Iran displayed the Khordad-3 air defence system that shot down a US drone in June. It also showed an Iranian medium-range missile that can travel up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) putting it in range of Iran’s archrival Israel and US. bases in the region.
Similar parades were held in major cities and towns across the country including the port city of Bandar Abbas near the Strait of Hormuz.
State TV showed scores of Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as air defence and other military equipment. It also carried images of Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces rappelling down the side of a sailing ship.
The attacks in Saudi Arabia have deepened a crisis that has escalated since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran and world powers. Since then, Washington has reimposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy and pledged to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero.
In response, Tehran has gradually scaled back its nuclear commitments and rejected any talks unless all sanctions are lifted.
During his speech, Rouhani described the sanctions as “economic terrorism” but said the “revolutionary people” of Iran were not intimidated by what he described as “threats”.
“Our people, for the last 40 years, and over the last 10 years specifically, we have been able to tolerate the pressure of the sanctions,” he said.
Iran, with its “resistance, intelligence, and unity … will definitely pass through this hardship”, he added.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies