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Islamic State 'Funded By Saudi Petrodollars,' Says Iran's Friday Prayer Leader


Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami has reacted angrily to remarks by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

Senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami has reacted angrily to remarks by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

Iran has continued to lash out at its regional rival Saudi Arabia, with Tehran's Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami accusing the Gulf state of funding Islamic State (IS) group militants in Syria and Iraq.

Tensions between Tehran and Riyadh have flared after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said Iran was "part of the problem" in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen while insisting that Iran withdraw its "occupying forces" from these three countries.

Khatami addressed Al-Faisal's remarks, and Al-Faisal, directly in his Friday sermon in Tehran on October 17.

"Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says Iran is part of the problem not the solution. That's strange; everyone knows that the IS group was created with your petrodollars," Khatami said, adding that everyone also knew that every act of terror in the Muslim world was also funded by the Saudis.

"The reality is that you are not only part of the problem, you are the entire problem!" Khatami said.

Iranian newspaper "Kayhan," considered a mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was even more scathing about Al-Faisal in its October 16 editorial.

Al-Faisal's "anti-Iranian remarks," "Kayhan" surmised, were so "ridiculous" that they could only be the result of "a combination of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease".

"Kayhan" goes on to qualify this remark by noting that "some sources" had said some time ago that Al-Faisal had health problems.

The "biggest supporter of terrorism" [Saudi Arabia] had called the "biggest enemy of terrorism" [Iran] the source of regional crises, "Kayhan" said.

Although relations between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'a Iran had thawed somewhat since the 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rohani, underlying tensions between the two countries remained and have now bubbled to the surface over the issue of IS in Syria and Iraq.

Although both countries oppose IS, Saudi Arabia is critical of Iran's backing for Shi'a groups in Syria and Iraq (and in other Arab states) while Iran is strongly opposed to the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, of which Saudi Arabia is a member.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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