Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s Defense Minister leveled a threat against Saudi Arabia when he said, “If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we will leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina.” He was quoted by Reuters, who cited Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency. It followed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud's warning that the “battle” between the regional rivals would be moved to inside Iran.
In an article by Heshmat Alavi, political and human rights activist, he writes, “The mullahs’ seem to have easily forgotten they initially launched the “battle” and how their modern day illegitimate support for the Houthis in Yemen are threatening Saudi Arabia’s southern borders. Tehran is also known for provoking Shiite terrorists inside the Kingdom and other Muslims nations across the region.”
In a possible reference to the Saudi warplanes in Yemen, Dehghan added, “They think they can do something because they have an air force.”
Major-General Mohammad Baqeri warned Islamabad of his country’s forces, who are willing to attack inside Pakistan to target “terrorists”, in an attempt to place attention on Iran’s eastern neighbors. In effect, the head of Iran’s armed forces accused Islamabad of harboring terrorists. The Al Jazeera website cited Iran’s Fars news agency quoting Baqeri, “We expect Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases.”
“Such comments led to Pakistan summoning Tehran’s ambassador over these recent threats,” Alavi writes, adding, “Pakistan strongly condemned Tehran’s statements, arguing bilateral relations between the two bordering countries would be harming, to say the least. Iranian authorities must abstain from making such negative comments, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry added.”
Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, who seems to have the favor of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, made strong remarks against the Saudis. Raisi, head of the Astan Quds Razavi, a charity foundation said to be funneling revenue to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, stated “…one day soon the filthy stain of arrogance will be wiped… from the Noble Sanctuaries.”
“Raisi was referring to the Saudis who administer many of Islam’s holiest sites on their soil. Raisi is also known to believe Tehran’s borders extend across Syria, ‘which we consider our frontier for defending the Islamic Republic’s security and identity.’ This is exactly why Raisi is described as a close confidant of Khamenei,” according to Alavi.
Raisi and four others are running against the incumbent President Hassan Rowhani in the 12th presidential election of this regime. Described by The Wall Street Journal, the election is “a race between several Islamic hard-liners and one hard-liner whom the Western media prefer to cast as a moderate”.
All candidates must be vetted by the Guardian Council, an unelected 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Khamenei.
The two leading candidates, Rowhani and Raisi, are both controversial. Under Rowhani, over 3,000 executions have been carried out during his past four-year tenure. Raisi has led a long career in the regime’s judiciary and is known for his role a part of the Death Committee during the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners.
Alavi writes, “As a result, the remarks made by senior Iranian officials lashing at left and right reveal the unending troubles the Iranian regime in its entirety is facing. And with the third and final debate scheduled for Friday, the votes for May 19th and a likely second round vote for May 26th, this entire month can be described as a minefield for Khamenei and the mullahs’ entire apparatus.”
Alavi believes that the regime is resorting to threats to maintain face among its dwindling social base — the people relied upon to turn out at the polling stations and be displayed for foreign reporters, in order to claim high voter turnout for the presidential “election”.
Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Commission, described Khamenei’s crises, “The choices for Khamenei are between the worse, and the worse of the worse. This is the reality that Khamenei has to deal with. This is a totally new situation and new prospects and brings the regime closer to its downfall.”