Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday landed in Tehran on a mission to ease tensions between the US and Iran, just hours after Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launched an attack on an airport in Saudi Arabia, wounding 26 people.
Abe’s trip is the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate the crisis as Tehran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration pulled out of last year and imposed oil sanctions on Iran. It’s also the first visit of a sitting Japanese premier in the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution.
But success may prove difficult for Abe, as the Houthi rebel attack on Saudi’s Abha regional airport underscored. Separately, the front page of the Iranian daily Farheekhtegan, or Educated, published yesterday morning a picture of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast — a reference to America’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
“How Can You Trust A War Criminal, Mr. Abe?” the newspaper asked in dual English and Farsi headlines. Hard-line news outlets in Iran immediately picked up the front page from the paper, published by students of Islamic Azad University, which has campuses across the nation.
Abe’s plane landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport yesterday afternoon where he was greeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He later met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Sadabad presidential palace where they began a closed-door meeting. He is expected to meet Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei this morning.
Abe landed just hours after the attack in Abha. The Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, said they launched a cruise missile at the Saudi airport while the kingdom said 26 people were hurt, reported AP.
The rebels’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the missile hit its intended target, halting air traffic at the airport in the town of Abha in the kingdom’s southwest, some 165 kilometres (100 miles) from the Saudi-Yemen border.
Saudi coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki was quoted on the state-run Al-Ekhabirya news channel as saying three women and two children were among those hurt and that eight people were hospitalized while 18 suffered minor injuries.
Malki also said the coalition would “take stern action” to deter the rebels and protect civilians, reported AFP.
Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade level on July 7 if European allies fail to offer new terms for the nuclear deal.