A Saudi minister on Monday accused Lebanon of declaring war on the Gulf kingdom by failing to reign in the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, as tensions between Riyadh and Tehran spiked over the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister and fighting in Yemen.
“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring a war because of Hezbollah militias,” Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan told Saudi news station Al-Arabiya.
The statement came days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned his post while visiting Riyadh, saying he feared a an assassination plot against him, and lashing out at the influence of Hezbollah and Iran on his country.
His statement prompted fears that Lebanon — split into rival camps led by Hariri and powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah — would be caught up in spiraling tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
Sabhan said Hezbollah has a hand in every terror threat against Saudi Arabia and said the country was prepared to use both political and other means to take on what he called the “party of Satan,” in a play on the group’s name, which means “party of God” in Arabic.
He also said, “We expect the Lebanese government to act to deter Hezbollah.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted Sabhan’s remarks, but separately, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister accused Iran and the Lebanese terror group of being behind a missile launched at Riyadh from Yemen over the weekend.
“It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hezbollah, from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” Adel al-Jubeir told CNN on Monday.
The Houthis, a Shiite militia backed by Iran, took credit for the missile, which was intercepted near the Saudi capital’s airport.
Al-Jubeir said the missile was manufactured in Iran before being smuggled in parts into Yemen, where “operatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah” assembled it and fired it on Saudi Arabia.
He called the firing of the missile “an act of war” and warned “we reserve the right to respond in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time.”
A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said earlier Monday that Saudi Arabia’s assertion that Iran was responsible for the missile launch was “false, irresponsible, destructive and provocative,” according to the Tasnim news agency.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been at odds as the regions main rivals. Israel has reportedly forged ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states over a shared distrust of Iran.
Iran and Hezbollah have accused Saudi Arabia of being behind Hariri’s resignation, saying the move was meant to sow tension in Lebanon and the Middle East.
The Iranian foreign minister hinted earlier Monday that US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was also responsible for Hariri’s surprise resignation.
“Visits by Kushner & Lebanese PM led to [Saad] Hariri’s bizarre resignation while abroad,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Of course, Iran is accused of interference.”
Kushner visited Saudi Arabia in October as part of a four-day trip to the region that also included stops in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, Politico reported last week. Hariri traveled to the kingdom twice last week, announcing his resignation on the latter trip.
AFP contributed to this report.