In this press conference held by Iran’s newly reelected president, Hassan Rouhani, on May 21 to coincide with the Arab Islamic American Summit taking place the same day in Riyadh, Rouhani told the assembled journalists that Saudi Arabia should hold ‘democratic elections’ like Iran’s. There was no mention of whether the proposed elections should be held under the aegis of a theocratic Supreme Leader who makes the decisions, which the elected president implements, like Iran’s.
Answering preselected questions from the journalists present, Rouhani also spoke about the arms deal believed to be worth $110 billion signed between the USA and Saudi Arabia.
The conference moderator first introduces the reporters putting questions to Rouhani, saying, “Mrs. Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News’ correspondent, is here and she wishes to ask you questions, and after that the [Iranian] IRIB correspondent and Hafeth-Sob newspaper will do the same.”
Elizabeth Palmer then puts her question to Rouhani, saying in English: “Good afternoon Mr. President. I’m Elizabeth Palmer from CBS News. Will Iran respond to the USA’s multi-billion dollar arms sale announced by President Trump to Saudi Arabia with arms made by itself or by an increase in your defense spending?”
Hassan Rouhani’s interpreter, then translates Ms. Palmer’s question for Rouhani, who smirks as he begins his response, saying: “Saudi Arabia has already been given 100 billion dollars during the eight-year war of sacred defence [the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war], as Saudi Arabia gave around 97 million or 100 million dollars to Saddam Hussein [former Iraqi president]. This Saudi Arabia has great experience in always spending hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the Saudi Arabs have seen the results of that era nd now there is no problem. Anyway, now one hundred billion dollars of the Saudi people’s is going into the pocket of Americans to buy arms. Well Saudi Arabia maybe thinks that they should buy arms, but for us, we don’t need to buy arms, we make arms, we can produce any arms we need. We have the ability to make them and we will make them.
Therefore, in this regard, there’s no problem for us, and in my opinion, Saudi Arabia won’t be able to use such arms and once again it will have to bring in American advisors to the region. Here, I’d like to make a point to the governments on an important and sensitive issue to the Middle East and also to the Saudi government; the Saudi people are our friends, our neighbours, and we have always liked them and will like them, and we hope the Saudi government will take the right path. The way of power is not through arms, especially in buying arms from others. The way of power by manufacturing arms is not the right one; however, we’re able to produce whatever arms we need and we will do so as we also know that part of being vigilant in power is the military power. The basis of power is the national power and such power will be created through elections. Such power will be made by people being present at the ballot box. So Mr. Trump has visited the region at a time when he saw 45 million Iranians turn out at the ballot box to vote; however, he went to a country where the word ‘election’ is meaningless to them, and these poor people have never seen a ballot box for voting, and I hope that Saudi Arabia will choose such a way to seek national power, through establishing a ballot box for its people and not letting its rulers be hereditary; let the rulers be elected by the people, and when that happens then the power of Saudi will be greater than today.”