Saudi Arabia shared intelligence and warned the US about imminent attacks from Iran on targets in the kingdom, putting American and other Middle East forces on high alert, Saudi and US officials said.
In response to the warning, Saudi Arabia, the US and several neighboring states have raised the level of alert for their forces, the officials said. They did not provide further details about Saudi intelligence.
Saudi officials said Iran was ready to attack both the kingdom and Erbil, Iraq, in an effort to distract from the domestic protests that have rocked the country since September.
The White House National Security Council said it was concerned about the warnings and prepared to respond if Iran attacked.
“We are concerned about the threat picture, and we are in regular contact through the military and intelligence with the Saudis,” said a spokesman for the National Security Council. “We will not hesitate to act to protect our interests and our partners in the region.”
Iran has used several ballistic missiles and drones to attack northern Iraq since late September, when one of the US planes was shot down on its way to the city of Erbil, where American troops are stationed. Tehran has publicly blamed what it calls an Iranian Kurdish separatist group set up there for fomenting unrest at home.
Iranian authorities have publicly accused Saudi Arabia, along with the US and Israel, of inciting the demonstrations. Last month, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps publicly warned Saudi Arabia to resume broadcasting to Iran through Farsi-language satellite channels, including Iran International, a Saudi-backed satellite television channel. based in London which is popular with many Iranians. .
“This is our last warning, because you are interfering in our internal affairs through these media,” Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said in a statement reported in state media on military activities in the Iranian region of East Azerbaijan. “You are involved in this matter and know that you are easy.”
Iran’s state news agency IRNA called Iran International “a network established by Saudi Arabia in 2017 in London” that “fully supports the anti-Iranian system.” The channel has used its social media and satellite channels to show videos of Iranian protests and police crackdowns since the widespread unrest in Iran began.
Authorities have struggled to quell the unrest that has been occurring daily since the death on September 16 of a young woman in police custody for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules on how women dress in public. More than 200 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested in the government’s response to the demonstration that began as a negative call for women’s rights and turned into a movement seeking the fall of the Islamic Republic.
As the unrest spread, Iranian officials blamed Iran’s enemies for provoking the unrest. Such unprovoked statements are a familiar tactic for the regime, which has blamed its enemies on Iran during previous domestic protests against the regime.
The US and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of sending drones and missiles to the kingdom in 2019 that targeted the country’s oil industry. Iran denied that they carried out the attack.
The new threat to Saudi Arabia comes amid strained relations between the Biden administration and Riyadh over the kingdom’s recent moves on oil production. Saudi-led OPEC+ decided to cut oil production last month, raising prices at a time of high prices and just before the US midterm elections, despite US pleas to stop.
The White House said President Biden wants to examine whether the Saudi relationship serves US national security interests. But the US is unlikely to leave Saudi Arabia because it will also be involved in Washington’s counter-terrorism operations, efforts to contain Iran and Israel’s deep involvement in the region.
—Summer Said contributed to this article.
Write that Dion Nissenbaum at [email protected]
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