The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, rejected accusations that the Islamic Republic of Iran is looking to stir up trouble in the region, a complaint that is often leveled against Iran by Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, in particular Saudi Arabia.
During a memorial for martyrs at Al-Rasool mosque in Kerman, Soleimani gave a rare speech in which he defended Iran’s policies in the region, addressed accusations of sectarianism and criticized Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
On the country’s regional policy, Soleimani said, “Since the principles of the Islamic Republic have no similarities to its enemies' principles, they cannot accept [Iran's] policy, so they call it adventurism.” He added, “Everyone, especially our youth, has to realize this in gatherings and not be subject to political whisperings that adventurism is taking place in our country."
Iran currently has a number of forces fighting alongside the Syrian army and Hezbollah in Syria. They have been battling a variety of Sunni opposition groups backed by Sunni countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which accuse Iran of helping the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for sectarian reasons. Soleimani rejected these accusations.
“Takfiris [Sunni extremists] and the fiery beliefs of takfiris are at the homes of Sunni brothers, and those who created this believe that with it they will bring Iran and Shiites to their knees,” he said. “Today, more than anywhere else in the world, the personal homes of Sunnis have been invaded by takfiri groups.”
Referring to the Islamic State, Soleimani asked, “Is it [provocation] that Iran … defends Muslims? Is it wrong that Iran stands against a group that in one region buys and sells 2,000 women and children and has made them suffer a heavy tragedy? Is it wrong that Iran has stood against anti-Muslims and has prevented the destruction of mosques?”
In response to regional rival Saudi Arabia's accusation that Iran has been meddling in the kingdom's internal affairs, Soleimani said, “In the history of the Islamic Republic, there is no point at which we have … been [agitating] the Saudis or their government, and always it has been the Saudis who have been adventurous against Islam and us.” He then accused the Saudis of bombing Yemen, killing men, women and children.
Regarding the Lebanese Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah, which Saudi Arabia and the Arab League designated a terrorist organization, Soleimani said, “Hezbollah, as an Arab and Islamic army, has never been adventurous against Saudi Arabia.” Presumably addressing Hezbollah’s ability to expel Israeli forces out of south Lebanon, Soleimani said, “What all the Arab armies were not able to do from 1947 until the 1960s, [Hezbollah] did.”
On accusations of sectarianism, Soleimani said, “In which country have we tried to turn a Sunni brother into a Shiite? In fact, conversely, our lives were shields for Sunnis.”
Soleimani also defended the type of government in Iran, saying, “The existing democracy and complete independence of our country has made us different than other countries, and the difference between Iran and the rest of the countries is not a negative or bad difference, but a pure and exemplary difference.”