The ultra-conservative Kayhan daily in Iran, has disregarded a warning from the Media Supervisory Committee about a headline it ran yesterday, which said, “Ansarallah’s missile launch against Riyadh, Dubai next target”.
The headline referred to a ballistic missile launch from Yemen on Riyadh, which was intercepted by the Saudi missile shield and exploded harmlessly in the air last Saturday.
Ansarallah is the name of the main Houthi grouping, allied with Iran and fighting Saudi Arabia.
The media watchdog representing the Ministry of Culture told Kayhan that its headline was “against the national interest”.
Despite this warning, Kayhan on Tuesday put a defiant headline: “The national interest should defend the oppressed in Yemen, not the skyscrapers in Dubai”.
Kayhan is closely associated with the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The managing director of the newspaper, Hossein Shariyatmadari enjoys the title of Supreme Leader’s Representative.
He has consistently attacked the nuclear deal or any suggestion of changing the country’s foreign policy towards more engagement and cooperation with the international community.
Saudi Arabia has directly blamed Iran for the missile attack and has said it “reserves the right to respond”. Riyadh insists that Iran is supplying Yemen’s Houthis with ballistic missiles.
Iranian officials have rejected these accusations, claiming that the missiles are made by Yemenis in Yemen.
But a provocative headline in an official newspaper can have repercussions for Iran in the prevailing tense regional situation.
Some media in Iran have criticized Kayhan. Sharq newspaper on Tuesday wrote that “In the opinion of many, Kayhan’s statements can create headache…They say that this can be used by Saudi Arabia and America to prove Iran’s role in the missile attack.”