By Alex MacDonald, Middle East Eye
Friday, 25 March 2016
Jordan's King Abdullah has accused Iran of exporting weapons to Africa and lauded efforts by Saudi Arabia to curtail the influence of the Islamic Republic, Middle East Eye can reveal.
The Jordanian king made the accusations in a meeting with US congressional leaders, a source close to the meeting told MEE on the condition of anonymity.
In the meeting one unnamed congressman reportedly noted that "Iran is also exporting weapons to Asia and Africa, and there is a need for a strategy to draw the line". The King said he "agrees" and said that Jordan had also "noted this in Africa," without mentioning specific countries.
He added that "this is also happening in Afghanistan" warning that if the Islamic State (IS) was degraded in these countries, "Iran will come in to fill the gap," according to MEE's source.
Jordan has backed Saudi Arabia in its long-running rivalry with Iran that was recently enflamed by the burning and looting of the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January.
The Kingdom withdrew its ambassador to Iran and complained of "Iranian interference" in Arab affairs, according to the Jordanian state news agency Petra.
The destruction of the embassy had come as an angry response to a decision by Saudi to execute a prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 other people on 2 January.
In the congressional meeting, Abdullah said that Shia Muslims had been "lumped in" with the executions carried out that day. To purely kill Sunnis would have "looked bad domestically," he said.
He added, however, that it was unfortunate that Nimr had been included among those executed, saying that as a result, the "action took [on a life of] its own and there is a potential that this could become a bigger problem".
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh added that Saudi Arabia had been "very good at clipping the wings of Iran's foreign activities, including Africa" and noted that the Saudis had "reengaged in Azerbaijan and in Asia so they can stand up against Iran".
He also said that Saudi Arabia had "put up with a lot" from Iran.
Last week, Jordan endorsed a statement by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that condemned Iran for the "terrorist" attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and affirmed the sovereignty of three islands contested by the UAE and Iran in the Gulf.
The relationship between Iran and Jordan has historically been lukewarm at best, particularly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah, a Jordanian ally.