TEHRAN – Iran’s newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani on Monday criticized Saudi Arabia after it signed a huge arms deal with the U.S., saying “ballot boxes” are more vital than arms for the Arab country.
The kingdom “has never seen a ballot box”, Rouhani told a press conference following a landslide vote in the country’s presidential election on May 19, in which nearly 42 million voters participated.
“Buying arms or building weapons won’t make a country powerful. Military power is only a part of strength and we are fully aware of that. But the foundation of power is national strength and this is only achieved through elections,” Rouhani asserted.
“I hope that the day will come that Saudi Arabia will adopt this path,” he said. “They should have polling stations in place for the people and let the rulers not be on a hereditary basis. They should be picked by the people.”
Rouhani’s comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump sealed a multibillion arms deal with Saudi officials during his maiden trip abroad as U.S. president.
The agreement, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as “a significant expansion of…[the] security relationship” between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since early 2016. That’s when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric and protesters in Iran attacked two of the kingdom’s diplomatic posts.
Saudi Arabia immediately cut diplomatic ties and other Arab countries lying on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf have taken a harder line on Iran since.
In similar comments, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran derives stability from the people and not the coalitions.
“We derive stability not from ‘coalitions’, but from our people, who – unlike many – do vote. Iranians must be respected & are ready to engage,” he tweeted on Friday.