President Hassan Rouhani has lashed out against the US and Israel during an Islamic unity summit. The Iranian leader also expressed a willingness to help the people of Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslims around the world to band together against Washington at Iran's annual Islamic Unity Conference on Saturday. He even made subtle overtures to regional enemy Saudi Arabia, calling Riyadh "a brother."
"Submitting to the West headed by America would be treason against our religion ... and against the future generations of this region," said Rouhani, in a speech broadcast live on state television.
Alluding to the close ties Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have with the US, the president added: "We have a choice to either roll out red carpets for criminals or to forcefully stand against injustice and remain faithful to our Prophet, our Quran and our Islam."
'We consider you a brother'
Although Tehran and Riyadh have long been at odds — not only over religious differences between Sunni and Shia Islam but also by backing different factions in conflicts like those in Iraq, Syria and Yemen — Rouhani spoke at the conference of a willingness to help Saudi people.
"We do consider you as a brother," he said. "We do consider the people of Mecca and Medina our brothers," he added, referring to Islam's holiest cities, which are in Saudi Arabia.
"We are ready to defend the interests of the Saudi people against terrorism, aggression and the superpowers... and we don't ask for $450 billion to do it," the president said, referring to business deals made between Riyadh and Washington.
Israel is a 'fake regime'
Rouhani also lashed out at Israel, called it a "cancerous tumor" of the Middle East, accusing it of being a "fake regime" set up by Western countries after World War II to protect their interests in the region.
The US-Saudi Arabia relationship has long been the source of much comment, considering Riyadh's history of oppression towards women and minorities, human rights abuses, and alleged Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks.
More recently, the close ties have been questioned due to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. According to the CIA, Khashoggi's murder was directly ordered by US ally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Despite this, President Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from the crown prince.
At the same time, tensions between Tehran and Washington that had relaxed after former President Barack Obama signed a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 have escalated again after Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions.
es/rc (AP, Reuters)