US-Israeli lobby seeks to damage Iran’s ties with neighbors: Cleric

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A senior Iranian cleric has warned that the US-Israeli lobby is making efforts to damage Iran’s relations with its neighboring countries amid a new rift in ties between the Islamic Republic and Kuwait.

Speaking in a sermon to worshipers at the weekly Friday Prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said the footprint of the US-Zionist lobby can be seen in the recent diplomatic row between Tehran and Kuwait City.

“Whether you want it or not, whether you accept it or not, Iran is the most powerful country in the region,” Ayatollah Khatami said addressing certain neighboring countries.

He urged the regional states to maintain friendly relations with Iran because they “need it.”

Iran has proved that it would treat in the best way those neighboring countries that have fostered friendly relations with the Islamic Republic, he said.

“You need to know that friendship with Iran is beneficial to you,” the cleric added.

Khatami also warned Iran’s neighboring states against cordial relations with the US and emphasized that Washington would treat them in the same way it did with the executed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Kuwait on Thursday closed down the Iranian cultural mission along with other affiliate offices in the Persian Gulf country and ordered Iran’s Ambassador to Kuwait City, Ali Reza Enayati, and 14 other Iranian diplomats to leave the country in 45 days, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

The Iranian diplomatic mission will be reduced to charge d’affaires level and the activities of joint committees of Iran and Kuwait will be stopped.

Kuwait’s move came following a court ruling last year that implicated some Iranians in a spying case, known as the “Abdali cell.”

Later on Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Kuwait’s charge d’affaires in Tehran for “some explanations.”

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According to IRNA, the summoning came following Kuwait’s decision to expel Iranian diplomats and telling the Iranian embassy in Kuwait City to close down some of its technical offices.

The report added that Iran’s Foreign Ministry informed the Kuwaiti envoy of the Islamic Republic’s protest to the decision by Kuwait to reduce the number of Iranian diplomats in the country. 

In August 2015, Kuwait said it had busted the 26-member cell and seized arms, ammunition and explosives from them.

Kuwaiti courts convicted members of the so-called “Abdali cell” of working for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement. The defendants were also charged with possessing weapons, smuggling explosives, and planning “hostile actions” inside Kuwait.

They received sentences ranging from a few years in prison to, in one case, the death penalty, though the latter sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.

The defendants were later acquitted on appeals and set free. Kuwait’s Supreme Court, however, overturned their acquittal and sentenced them to between five and 15 years in prison.

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