EGYPT’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani his country is ready to come to the defence of Gulf Arabs if they threatened – raising the prospect of a dangerous regional conflict which could escalate alarmingly.
Egypt is closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, the subject of international criticism in the wake of the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the United Arab Emirates.
It joined their boycott of Qatar last year and opposes Iran’s regional influence.
Mr Sisi made his pledge in pro-government newspaper Youm7 on Tuesday.
He said: “Our Arab peoples must remain aware and have true consciousness of what the region is going through.
“We stand by our brothers in the Gulf wholeheartedly and if Gulf security is directly threatened by anyone, the Egyptian people, even before their leadership, will not accept that and will mobilise forces to protect their brethren.”
He also voiced his concern about the punitive sanction place on Tehran by US president Donald Trump, saying: “Instability affects us all and any state that has instability affects all of us.”
Mr Trump’s decision to reimpose the sanctions after the US pulled out of the JPCOA accord aimed at preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons has raised the temperature in the region.
The threat was aimed at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
He and Mr Rouhani have exchanged insults and threats in recent months, most notably when the former warned of dire consequences in a capital letter tweet in July.
The Iranians are also allied with Houthi rebels in Yemen, who were blamed for a rocket attack on two Saudi oil tankers which prompted Riyadh to temporarily suspend shipments along the Bab-el-Mandeb strait which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
For their part, the Saudis have been involved in a bombing campaign in Yemen which UN estimates suggest has cost the lives of thousands of civilians.
The sanctions offer waivers to Iran’s biggest buyers, with Japan, China and South Korea exempted.
US President Donald Trump has reimposed sanctions on Iran
However, Mr Trump has warned other countries, including the UK, who do business with Tehran will face punitive measures.
Iran has claimed the sanctions have had no effect so far, with Tasnim news agency quoting Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri as saying: “The Americans constantly said they would reduce the sale of Iran’s oil to zero but I have to say that, so far, we have been able to sell our required amounts of oil.
“The Americans, with the help of propaganda, don’t see the realities.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani today said he was hoping his country’s bitter ongoing dispute with the Saudis could be overcome, warning it risked regional security by weakening a Gulf Arab bloc.
He told the country’s consultative Shoura council: “History teaches us that crises pass, but if they are handled badly then this may leave traces which last for a long time.
“It is very regrettable that the continuation of the Gulf crisis exposed the failure of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which has weakened its ability to face challenges and threats and marginalised its role in the region.”