TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a stinging rebuke to Arab leaders, said on Thursday some of them were standing back in silence and even supporting Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Iran has accused some Arab states of not doing enough to stop Israel’s assault but Ahmadinejad went beyond past criticism in remarks made in a letter to Saudi King Abdullah.
Iran has publicly backed Hamas in Gaza as some Western and Arab states have sought to isolate the Islamist group. Analysts say Iran has highlighted its support to win over the Arab public and emphasize its influence in the region to the United States.
“Unfortunately, some regional, Islamic and Arab states for whatever reason and with a smile of satisfaction, are supporting or tolerating this rare genocide in silence,” Ahmadinejad wrote.
His letter was published on the president’s website (www.president.ir) a day after the Saudi monarch called for a summit of Gulf Arab leaders.
“(They) are expecting that this defenseless people’s existence will be broken and that they surrender to the oppression of the occupiers,” he said, urging King Abdullah “to break his silence and announce his view” on the crisis.
Iran does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and the president says the Jewish state is destined to disappear, a position he repeated in his letter to the Saudi monarch.
“With God’s help and relying on the Gaza people’s resistance and belief in God, undoubtedly the Zionist regime will fail and will eventually collapse,” he wrote.
Ahmadinejad is due to give a news conference Thursday that is expected to focus on Israel’s attacks on Gaza, in which more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed.
In another message, Ahmadinejad took the unusual step of addressing Israeli troops, calling on them to disobey their commanders. He also urged “residents of occupied Palestine,” a reference to Israelis and Palestinians, to publicly protest.
Israel accuses Iran of providing weapons to Hamas. Tehran insists it provides financial, humanitarian and moral support.
“You soldiers of the Zionist regime ... Why should you kill innocent women and children? The time has come for you to protest against your commanders and disobey their orders,” he said in the second message, also published on his website.
Iranian hardliners have staged a series of protests in support of Palestinians, in particular gathering outside the Jordanian embassy and Egypt’s diplomatic mission. Both Arab countries have peace treaties with Israel.
Protesters have focused on Egypt, which does not have full diplomatic ties with Iran, for closing its border with Gaza.
In an interview with Iran’s Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Alam, Ahmadinejad urged Egypt to open the crossing.
Egypt sometimes allows wounded people and medical supplies through its border with Gaza but the crossing has been closed to ordinary traffic since Hamas seized control there in 2007. Cairo has also blamed Hamas for the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The Saudi government, which sees itself as the leader of mainstream Sunni Islam, has refrained from explicitly blaming Hamas for the offensive, but writers close to the government have blamed Hamas for aligning itself with Shi‘ite power Iran.
Saudi Arabia has long been wary of Iran and its ambitions in the Gulf.
Writing by Edmund Blair