Iran Summons Saudi Chargé d’Affaires Over Spy Allegations

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The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Tehran over the arrest of 18 individuals accused of spying for Iran.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry announced that the arrest of 18 individuals who they claim has links to “Iranian intelligence services.” Of those arrested, 16 were Saudi, one was Iranian and one was Lebanese. Shiite leaders in Saudi Arabia criticized the arrests as being politically motivated and sectarian.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called the accusations by the Saudi interior minister “baseless” and meant for media consumption. Iran has sought “official explanations” in these accusations.

On March 14, an employee at the Saudi Embassy in Iran killed an Iranian citizen while reportedly driving drunk and speeding. According to unconfirmed reports by hard-line Mashreg News, the employee had attempted to leave Iran but was prevented from doing so. The article also states that no official response by Saudi officials has been given either to Iranian officials or the family of the deceased. Mashreg accused government officials of ignoring the case and using the Nowruz New Year holidays as an excuse.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are generally believed to be in a type of cold war as both countries compete for regional influence in the Middle East. Tensions have increased in the last couple of years with accusations that an Iranian-American sought to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US in Washington, DC. Last year, Iran summoned Saudi Arabia after they executed several Iranian citizens for drug smuggling. Saudi Arabia has repeatededly accused Iran of fomenting unrest in its Eastern province, which largely consists of Shia Muslims.

Head of Judiciary Warns Against Election Protests

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Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary and brother to parliament chair Ali Larijani, warned yesterday that “the law does not allow for any deviation by officials in the administration of the [presidential] elections.”

Elections in Iran are carried out by the administration. The president is believed to be pushing for his longtime ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashei to be the next president of Iran. Mashei has been labeled part of the “deviant” movement within the administration by hard-liners and religious figures. The choice of the word “deviant” by Larijani could be viewed as a warning to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mashei in their handling of the elections.

Larijani also warned about post-election unrest. In reference to the uprisings after the 2009 elections, which left dozens dead and hundreds arrested or exiled, he said “I hope some don’t think they can repeat the mistake of the 2009 protests against the election results […] when official complaints were turned into illegal and street protests.” Larijani said that “in the framework of the Islamic [government], complaints against the election results have always had a legal path.” He cautioned that “the events of 2009 should be a lesson” for those wanting to challenge the election results.