The remarks by the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who addressed the issue on two consecutive days, have reinforced concerns in the region that Iran is seeking another opportunity to interfere in Arab affairs, as it has done in Lebanon and Iraq.
His comments came as Saudi Arabia let it be known that its navy has begun patrolling Yemen’s Red Sea north-west coast with orders to search ships suspected of ferrying arms to the Yemeni rebels.
The naval action was reported on Tuesday by the Associated Press quoting an unidentified Saudi government adviser. The government has not officially confirmed the move, which would give an added dimension to Saudi Arabia’s recent military air-and-ground offensive against the Yemeni rebels, known as al Houthis after their late leader.
“If it’s true, it’s a very large escalation and if the Saudis are playing it smart, they are going to try and … find a smoking gun” to prove that Iran is supplying the rebels with arms, said Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma) in Dubai.
“We have a war of rhetoric and a lot of people with vested interest want to make this into a proxy fight,” added Mr Karasik, noting that the Iranians are “being very aggressive” in competing with Saudi Arabia to be the dominant regional power.