By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Just as U.S. President Donald J. Trump was blasting Iran at the United Nations General Assembly for “sowing chaos, death and destruction,” Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Mexico Hammad al-Rowaily said on Tuesday, Sept. 25, that Tehran has already violated its 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) promises to the West to limit its nuclear development to peaceful purposes.
“When the JCPOA program was first proposed, Saudi Arabia endorsed the plan and hoped that it would help to bring social and political stability to our region,” Al-Rowaily told Pulse News Mexico during a diplomatic reception at his residence to mark the Arabian Peninsula kingdom’s 88th anniversary.
“But we have since discovered that Iran has secretly proceeded with its plans to develop a nuclear weapon and is on the cusp of having a nuclear warhead.”
Al-Rowaily went on to say that while all of the remaining signatories to the controversial Iranian nonproliferation deal (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, since the United States dropped out of the agreement in 2017) have pledged to continue to reduce economic sanctions against Tehran, recent evidence confirms that Iran still has bellicose nuclear ambitions.
“Experience has shown us that Iran cannot be trusted to keep its word,” Al-Rowaily said.
In May, covert Iranian documentation was discovered in a warehouse in Tehran showing plans to build atomic weapons.
Under the JCPOA agreement, Iran had agreed to totally eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, and reduce by two-thirds its gas centrifuges for a 13-year period.
It also agreed to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent and to build no new heavy-water facilities for the next 15 years.
But Al-Rowaily said that his government, which has long considered predominantly Shi’ite Iran as its nemesis, has proof that Tehran has not kept its end of the bargain.
Al-Rowaily also said that the Hassan Rouhani regime is courting its own economic unraveling by using its money to finance political wars in other parts of the Middle East, including Yemen and Syria, rather than helping its own people to reach a higher standard of living.
“Iran has its own agenda in the Gulf,” the ambassador said.
“It is using the guise of religion to provoke social and political discord throughout the region.”
Al-Rowaily added that while Iran is still fueling the devastating three-and-a-half-year-long civil war in Yemen — which has already led to the death of at least 10,000 people in a country with a total population of just 24 million – by supplying arms and financial support to Zaydi rebels, the Houthi militias who refuse to negotiate with the majority Sunni Shafi’I government number less than 20,000.
“If Iran were to pull out of Yemen, this war could be resolved by the Yemini people,” said Al-Rowaily.
Notwithstanding, predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has also become a major player in Yemen as part of a proxy faceoff with Iran that has pushed the already impoverished nation to the brink of famine by sponsoring military operations to push back the rebels and restore President Abdrabbuh Mansur and Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia officially acknowledged that an August airstrike that is sponsored and which that killed dozens of Yeminis – including children – was “unjustified” and agreed to compensate victims and comply more closely with internationally accepted rules of engagement.
Regarding Syria, Al-Rowaily said that Iran has continued to sow the seeds of violence as part of its expansionist plans in which it uses its own brand of Shi’ite doctrine to instill resentment between different factions of Islam.
The envoy said that while Saudi Arabia considers President Bashir al-Assad to be a fundamental part of the problem in Syria, rather than a potential part of the solution, it is up to the Syrian people to find their own path to peace, without the intervention of Iran or other nations.
“The position of Saudi Arabia is very clear,” he said.
“We are committed to promoting peace and stability in the region through the advancement of an Islamic brotherhood of cooperation and the peaceful coexistence of nations.”
Earlier in the day, Al-Rowaily welcomed his guests with a diplomatic speech touting the significance of Saudi unity, first established under the leadership of King Abd al-Aziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saudi, who on Sept. 23, 1932, issued a royal degree that united the the duel kingdoms of the Hejaz and Najd under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 1902, the late Al Saud, who considered to be the father of modern Saudi Arabia and is the patriarch of the House of Saud that still rules the country today, captured Riyadh and set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the entire peninsula.
Al-Rowaily said that, his country has managed to establish a modern state with an important role and influence in the international arena, politically and economically, with an active participation in multilateral forums such as the United Nations and G-20.
The ambassador accredited much of his country’s success to the forward-leaning vision of the House of Saud, which has committed to comprehensive development based on the kingdom’s fundamental principles of Islam.
The envoy also spoke about his country’s deepening relationship with Mexico, noting that the state visit of President Enrique Peña Nieto to Riyadh at the start of 2016 constituted a key cornerstone in the construction of an even more diversified and broader friendship.
And while combined two-way trade between Mexico and Saudi Arabia remains limited – about $220 million in 2017, according to Mexican government figures – Al-Rowaily said that his country is hopeful that binational commercial and economic relations will increase significantly in the near future.
In his speech, he openly invited Mexican entrepreneurs to come and develop trade and investment ties in Saudi Arabia, which, with the second-largest proven oil reserves in the world, has a Gross Domestic Product of more than $683 billion, representing 1.1 percent of the total global economy.
He also pointed out that two countries have recently signed a number of bilateral agreements, plus a memorandum of understanding to establish a Saudi-Mexican business council that will help foster business relations on both sides.
In true diplomatic form, Al-Rowaily concluded his speech by thanking the outgoing administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for its efforts to booster relations with Saudi Arabia and congratulated the country’s incoming President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his party for their unprecedented landslide victory last July 1.
AMLO and his team will take office on Dec. 1.
Saudi Arabia and Mexico first established bilateral diplomatic relations in 1952.
As custodian of the two holiest mosques in Islam – Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina – Saudi Arabia is considered to be the cradle of Islam, which dates back than 1,400 years and is the world’s fastest-growing religion.