Iranian officials told former US State Department official that Tehran considers Saudi Arabia its primary enemy, not Israel or the United States, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Saturday.
Frederick Hof told Kuwaiti media outlet al-Rai that in a recent closed door meeting with Iranian officials, they said Riyadh’s intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels poses a strategic threat to Tehran.
Iran has been a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Hof said that Tehran was “concerned about the consequences of the sectarian and civil war in Syria, but Saudi Arabia will benefit from sectarianism in the region.”
“The US and Israel haven’t intervened in Syria,” the Iranian officials were quoted saying. “The real problem is Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.”
Hof formerly served as the State Department’s special adviser for transition in Syria.
Concerning Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hof quoted the Iranian officials saying that the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group serves as Tehran’s “first line of defense in case Israel opts to launch a strike against [Iran’s] nuclear facilities.”
“Iranian officials believe that any Israeli leader who might think about launching any attack on Iran should first think about the impact of rockets on Israeli cities, economic infrastructure, and military bases,” he added.
Providing Hezbollah with material support is “not an easy task for Iran,” Hof is quoted saying. But because Assad is willing to transfer Iranian weapons and supplies to Hezbollah, “Iran will uncompromisingly support him,” the report said.
In December, Saudi Arabia pledged to give the Lebanese military $3 billion in financial aid, in part to counter Iran’s material support for Hezbollah.
The Lebanese army is generally seen as a unifying force in the country, and draws its ranks from all of Lebanon’s sects. But it has struggled to contain the escalating violence in the country since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict. It is also widely considered much weaker than the Shiite Hezbollah militant group, which is armed and funded by Iran.