Source: The Guardian
Oct 20, 2023
Iranian official in UK warns of danger of Israel-Hamas escalation
Chargé d’affaires at embassy says situation is very volatile and Iran has no control over ‘resistance forces’
The war in the Middle East could expand in unpredictable and dangerous ways if Israel further increases its attacks on Gaza, Iran’s most senior diplomat in the UK has warned.
Mehdi Hosseini Matin, the Iranian chargé d’affaires, said that if this happened it was possible that UK interests would be affected.
But he insisted Iran had no control over the “resistance forces” in the region, who he said would make their own decisions independently of Tehran.
At a rare press briefing at the Iranian embassy, Matin said: “The situation in the Middle East is very dangerous and very volatile. Every movement by the Israeli regime including an attack against the people of Gaza definitely escalates the situation and will be expanded to other areas. No one can predict what will happen exactly.”
The briefing underscores Iran’s efforts to show it is working in conjunction with Arab states and trying to publicly position Israel as the aggressor.
Historically, the relationship between Hamas – born out of the Muslim Brotherhood – and Tehran has not been as ideologically close as Tehran’s ties with some other militant Islamic groups in the region, such as Hezbollah, though Tehran has openly and enthusiastically supported the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel.
Matin claimed Iran had been working hard to build a ceasefire and an alliance for an international humanitarian corridor, saying the present crisis “represents a new chapter for Islamic countries as Palestine is becoming one of the most important issues for the identity of the Islamic world”.
Echoing comments made by the regime in Tehran, he attempted to justify the attack by Hamas in which hundreds of Israelis were killed. “All of the things that have been done by Hamas and Islamic groups are just self-defence. The terror, the atrocities, the occupation and apartheid are linked with the Israelis,” he said.
He added that his reading of remarks by the Joe Biden led him to think the US and the UK had been counselling Israel in private in recent days not to mount a ground assault on Gaza.
Insisting that Iran would take action in the open and would not use surrogates militia such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Matin said: “No one can [tell] the Islamic resistance groups in the Middle East what to do and not to do.”
He said his first priority was put a ceasefire in place and start talks. “Our position is to prevent escalation but we are not in a position to control any groups inside the Middle East – Islamic groups or any national groups.”
He said Iran had no role in the firing of missiles from Yemen into the Red Sea, or in the original Hamas assault on Israel.
Matin said it was necessary for Islamic countries to impose sanctions against Israel because of its actions in Gaza.
A meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah had agreed to look further into the issue, he said, adding that relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were continuing to make progress.