March 12, 2018
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the West should mind its own business in response to concerns raised by U.S. and EU diplomats about Tehran’s involvement in the affairs of neighboring countries.
“Iran’s regional presence is none of your business. Is this our region or yours? What are you doing in our region?” Khamenei said in a statement published on his website, adding, “We have an agreement with the people of the region and have gone ahead, and we will go even farther.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed concerns raised by the U.S. over Iran’s regional ambitions and its ballistic missile program during a visit to Tehran on Monday March 4, while reaffirming support for Iran’s nuclear deal with the West.
Prior to his visit, Le Drian had also warned Iran may face new sanctions if it does not address U.S. and European concerns over its ballistic missile program.
Regional states in the Persian Gulf also accuse Iran of intervening in their affairs. Like the West, they charge that Iran has prolonged the wars in Syria and Yemen by supporting the Assad regime in Syria and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi reacted March 7 to a joint Saudi- Egyptian statement that implicitly denounced Tehran’s involvement in the affairs of regional countries without naming Iran.
“The Arabian region cannot be secure unless a certain regional state stops all attempts to intervene in Arab countries’ affairs,” the joint statement read.
Egyptian leader Abdelfattah el-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman released the statement at the end of the latter’s visit to Egypt.
Qasemi described the statement as “fictitious” and “insisting on previous destructive mistakes.”
Later March 7, in an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, Bin Salman branded Iran, Turkey, and regional extremists as the members of “an evil triangle,” adding that, “the Iranian project” was on the verge of decline.
“While the U.S. is present everywhere in an antagonistic way, it always casts doubt about Iran’s regional presence. Do we need the United States’ permission in order to be present in the region?” Khamenei said in a speech March 7.
Khamenei has ruled out talks with the West about Tehran’s regional ambitions, but last week Western diplomats told Reuters that talks with Iran have already started. The report said the talks were held alongside the security conference in Munich in February. Two European diplomats and an Iranian official told Reuters at the time that the talks are slated to continue in Italy later this year.
Iran categorically denies accusations it plays a disruptive role in the region, however some reports say Tehran has spent up to $15 billion per year to prop up Bashar Al- Assad’s regime.