Saudi King Slams Iran’s Funding of Terrorism in U.N. Speech

The 84-year-old King Salman of Saudi Arabia blasted Iran for its production of "chaos, extremism, and sectarianism" on Wednesday in his first speech to the United Nations since taking the throne in 2015.

"[Saudi Arabia]’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail," Salman told his fellow U.N. members. 

"Time and again, the entire world witnessed how the Iranian regime exploited these efforts in order to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism, and in the process squandering the resources and wealth of the Iranian people for the purpose of its expansionist projects which produced nothing but chaos, extremism, and sectarianism."

Salman cited Iran’s efforts to destabilize Yemen, Lebanon, and its launching of over 700 drone and missile strikes through proxies on Saudi Arabia to date. In Yemen and Lebanon, Iran uses proxy forces such as Houthi militias and the terrorist group Hezbollah to inflict violence. Salman blamed Hezbollah for the massive explosion in Beirut in August that killed nearly 200 people.

The Saudi king also briefly touched on coalition efforts to root out ISIS and al Qaeda groupings in Yemen as a part of the larger efforts Riyadh has made in combating extremism in the region.

Aside from detailing the record of Iranian aggression, Salman made clear his interest in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. To this end, he took note of major deals brokered by Washington between Israel and neighboring Gulf states.

"Peace in the Middle East is our strategic option," Salman said. "We support the efforts of the current U.S. administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement."

While relations are not normalized between Riyadh and Jerusalem at present, Salman’s explicit mention of developments between the Israelis and Gulf neighbors are significant. As more states continue to normalize their ties with Israeli, many hope Saudi Arabia will follow suit. 

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner indicated earlier this month that Saudi Arabia could soon reach a peace agreement with Israel.

"I do believe it’s an inevitability that all countries in the Middle East" will eventually make peace with Israel, Kushner said during a phone call with reporters. "I think [the agreement] was noticed by everyone in the region, how well the deal with Israel and UAE was received."

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