Iranian officials have criticized the policies of the United States and its allies in reaction to the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held by the White House. The joint statement and annex, released on May 14 by President Obama and GCC member state representatives, referred to Iran’s “destabilizing” activities in the region. Ahead of the summit, Obama called Iran a “state sponsor of terrorism” in an interview with Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. He also said that countries in the region “are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations.”
In reaction, Iranian leaders argued that Tehran has actually been fighting terrorism. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the United States and its allies for the destabilization of the region from Libya to Pakistan. He also accused Washington of creating the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS or DAESH.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran’s neighbors have no reason to panic and that Tehran does not seek to dominate the region. And Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Marziyeh Afkham, called the GCC statement “contradictory” given the ongoing bombing of Yemen led by Saudi Arabia. The following are excerpted remarks by Iranian officials in response to the summit.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“Today, the world of Islam really and truly has many problems. Take a look at the condition of Islamic countries in our region ranging from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria to Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Libya. … Behind all these things, there is the problem of arrogant plots hatched by great powers. These powers are headed by America and they enter the arena in the name of safeguarding their interests. They do whatever they want out of lust and rage. They kill innocent people and they support criminal groups.
“Today, the Americans claim that they want to fight against terrorism. This is while they themselves have created the most dangerous terrorist groups which are very large in number. Who created DAESH? They themselves acknowledge that they have played the main role in creating DAESH. Who pitted other small and large groups like DAESH against Iraq, Syria and other areas? Where do the bullets, weapons and dollars that exist in the pockets of these criminal assassins come from? Where does such money come from? Who are the people that support these numerous and dangerous terrorist groups at America's command? Is there any doubt that the hand of arrogance has played the largest part in creating terrorism and in strengthening, helping and supporting terrorists in the region?
“They speak about the Persian Gulf region. Ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf region is to the advantage of all countries surrounding it. We countries surrounding the Persian Gulf have many common interests. We are neighbors. Ensuring the security of this area is to the advantage of all of us. If the Persian Gulf is safe, all of us will benefit from this security and if it is insecure, it will be insecure for all. An insecure Persian Gulf would be insecure for all. There are some people who are the owners of the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf belongs to them and it is their home. What business does America have in the region which gives it the right it to express its opinion about the issues of the Persian Gulf and to gather allies. They are not after security, rather they are after their own interests. If they deem it necessary to create an insecure environment for an area, they do it or they support those who do so.
“We have cooperated with those people who fought against terrorism in our country and in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. We helped them and we will continue to do that. We are opposed to terrorism.
It was you who supported such terrorists. It was you who encouraged them. Your drones destroyed the people's houses in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They turned people's wedding ceremonies into funerals - this was done in Iraq. It is you who are doing such things. Terrorism belongs to you. It is you who are terrorists. This is while you say that Iran supports terrorism. Terrorism is your job. We are opposed to terrorism and we fight against every terrorist.
—May 16, 2015 in a speech to representatives of Islamic countries
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“Unfortunately, there has been a barrage of insulting comments coming from Saudi Arabia to which I have refrained from reacting. And many in the Iranian government have exercised a huge deal of self-restraint in not reacting to those comments and actions -- both public as well as private comments that have come from our neighbors in Saudi Arabia. People have to stop panicking.
“Iran is a powerful country. Iran is a big country with a large population, natural resources, human resources. But we are a country that is content with its size, content with its geography. We have not engaged in any military adventures in the past 250 years. We don't see any of this as Iran trying to dominate this region. We see some people panicking in our region and we believe there is no need to panic. We are prepared to work with all our neighbors to ensure the security and prosperity of our region.”
President Hassan Rouhani
“The refuge is not in Camp David, but in Camp Prophet Mohammed and the Quran.”
—May 16, 2015 in a meeting with the supreme leader and foreign officials
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham
“Unfortunately, actions such as launching a foreign military attack on Yemen and disregarding its territorial integrity and the U.S. support for this aggression not only contravene international law, but also run counter to some of the contents of the Camp David statement.”
Photo credits: Foreign Minister Zarif by Robin Wright, President Rouhani via President.ir, Spokesperson Afkham via Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs