Yesterday’s edition of Jameeh-ye Farda, a reformist Iranian outlet, was published without an article written by its lead columnist Morteza Simiyari. The article, “Are We Hearing the Echo of the War? Russia, Instigator of War between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” was censored by the government, but it later surfaced on Gooya News, an independent news outlet in the Netherlands. The article reads: “In recent years, Iranian-Saudi relations have been one big confrontation in which they engaged in countermeasures against each other… This November, [Crown Prince Muhammad] Bin Salman said he would bring war into Iran’s borders and a few days later the Islamic State attacked the parliament in Tehran martyring 17 people…” Russia, Simiyari argued, would not mind such a regional confrontation, which would provide Moscow with greater leverage over both Tehran and Riyadh.
Kayhan, whose November 6th front-page headline “Ansarullah Launches Missile against Riyadh. Next Target: Dubai!” provoked an outcry in Iran and abroad, has chosen a more defensive approach. In its yesterday edition, the paper’s editor went to great lengths explaining that Kayhan was not aware or did not decide the next target of Houthi rebels in Yemen, but was merely reflecting the strategy outlined by the Houthi leadership in previous months.
Unimpressed by Kayhan’s explanation, Tehran Justice Administration has banned Kayhan from publishing for two days: Saturday November 11th and Sunday November 12th on charges of "acting contrary to national security."
Responding to the ban, Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari claims he has not yet formally received news about the ban from the authorities: "I consider it most unlikely that the Supreme National Security Council Secretariat should prefer to support the criminal , baby-killer House of al-Saud and the Emiratis to support for the innocent people of Yemen. One does also not expect the Justice Administration to ban Kayhan for defending the innocent Yemenis."
Javan, the mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), too, was threading carefully and wrote that the missile launched against the Riyadh International Airport was manufactured by the Houthis, and that it was not of Iranian origin. The Saudis’ “screaming” is because of changed equations in the war in Yemen, the Javan columnist argued.
Comment: The Islamic Republic’s attempts at controlling the war scare reflect Tehran’s fear of a direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia. Tehran wants to avoid such a conflict as it is not ready for it. Iran’s fear of conflict, however, does not mean that the I.R.G.C. will not try to keep the Yemeni conflict active by supporting the Houthi rebels in order to keep Riyadh busy fighting in its own backyard instead of engaging in conflicts further away from home.