Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcome US decision to end Iranian waivers

Riyadh and Manama say halting Tehran's 'destabilising policies' is a necessity

Ibrahim al-Assaf, the new Saudi foreign minister, speaks to AFP at his residence in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on December 28, 2018. Saudi Arabia's King Salman ordered a sweeping government reshuffle yesterday, replacing key security and political figures including the foreign minister, as the kingdom grapples with the international fallout over critic Jamal Khashoggi's murder. / AFP / Ahmed FARWAN
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Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on Tuesday welcomed the US’s decision not to renew sanction waivers to eight countries importing oil from Iran.

The move was made to increase pressure on Tehran and to cripple the industry that is crucial to its economy by bringing its oil exports to zero.

“The US’s decision is necessary to ensure that Iran halts its destabilising policies and support for terrorism around the world,” Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf said.

The kingdom, along with many other Arab and Western states, has accused Iran of interfering in countries across the Middle Eastern.

“The Iranian regime has been using its state resources to finance its dangerous policies in the region,” Mr Al Assaf said in a statement published on the Saudi News Agency.

“We are calling the international community to pressure Iran to adhere to international laws,” Mr Al Assaf said.

Bahrain's foreign ministry took Mr Al Assaf's comments further, saying the US move was important in order to limit Iran's "malign" activities in the region.

"This step is crucial in supporting and strengthening efforts aimed at combating terrorism and eradicating Iran’s malign and dangerous activities that undermine security and support terrorist organisations and militias in the region," the ministry said.

US President Donald Trump said waivers from India, China, Japan, South Korea and Turkey would expire in May, and countries could face US sanctions themselves if they continue to deal with Iran.

Mr Al Assaf said that kingdom will make up for any shortfalls in oil supply.

“We will maintain the stability and growth of the international oil market,” the Saudi minister said.

Mr Al Assaf confirmed that Saudi will coordinate with other oil producers to ensure a sufficient supply of oil is available to consumers.

US president said on Monday that "Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the oil flow difference in our now full sanction on Iranian oil."

The US presidents granted waivers to several countries in November when he first restored sanctions on Tehran after their withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal agreed to by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said the duration of the sanctions would depend on Iranian leaders.

He called on Iran to curb its nuclear programme, stop terrorism, regional destabilisation and arbitrary detentions of US citizens.

In response, the Iranian parliament approved a bill that labels all US military forces as terrorist, state TV reported on Tuesday.

A staggering 173 out of 215 politicians at the session in Tehran voted for the new bill. Only four voted against while the rest abstained; the chamber has 290 seats.

The bill is a step further from the one last week, when members of parliament approved labelling US troops in the Middle East as terrorist, in response to Washington's designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terror organisation earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the head of the Iran Revolutionary Guards navy, Commodore Alireza Tangsiri, said on Monday the country could close the major Strait of Hormuz shipping lanes if was prevented from exporting oil, the state-run Fars news agency reported.

“The Strait of Hormuz based on international law is a waterway and if we are prevented from using it, we will close it,” Fars quoted Mr Tangsiri as saying.

Iranian officials have threatened to block it in retaliation for US sanctions targeting the country’s nuclear program.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway carrying a fifth of the world’s traded oil.

Washington said that any move by Iran to close the strategic waterway would be "unjustified and unacceptable" and it will move to block it. The US navy has carrier groups in the region.