Iran foreign minister says Kushner to blame for Lebanon crisis

In Twitter tirade against Saudi Arabia, Zarif points to recent visit to Riyadh by Trump son-in-law, accuses kingdom of ‘regional bullying, destabilizing behavior’

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is interviewed by the Associated Press in New York on September 27, 2017. (AP/Richard Drew)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is interviewed by the Associated Press in New York on September 27, 2017. (AP/Richard Drew)

Iran’s foreign minister hinted Monday that US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was responsible for the surprise resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister over the weekend, a move that further fueled the regional rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh.

Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation on Saturday while visiting Riyadh, where he accused Saudi nemesis Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah of having a “grip” on Lebanon. He also said he feared for his life.

Iran has said the US and Saudi Arabia were responsible for Hariri’s resignation, saying the move was meant to sow tension in Lebanon and the Middle East.

“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.

Zarif did not say how Kushner allegedly helped orchestrate Hariri’s decision to step down.

On Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Hezbollah terror group, said the resignation was “imposed” by Saudi Arabia.

US President Donald Trump, senior advisor Jared Kushner, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohen, and then Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon are seen during a bilateral meeting with the Saudi crown prince (not in photo) at a hotel in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Hariri’s resignation has added fuel to an already simmering regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. On Monday, the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen threatened retaliation against Iran over a unsuccessful missile attack on Riyadh carried out by Iran-backed rebels.

In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi King Salman, right, meets with outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)

Addressing Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Yemeni civil war, Zarif accused the kingdom of bombing Yemen “to smithereens, killing 1000’s of innocents including babies.” He also said Saudi Arabia “spreads cholera and famine” in its southern neighbor.

The Iranian foreign minister also accused Saudi Arabia of “regional bullying” and destabilizing the Middle East, while trying to pin the blame on Iran.

“KSA is engaged in wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior & risky provocations. It blames Iran for the consequences,” he said.

Separately, Zarif blamed US President Trump’s visit to the kingdom in May for leading to regional crises.

“Visits to the belligerent #KSA have proved hazardous to regional health. Trump visit led to Bahrain repression followed by Qatar debacle,” tweeted Zarif.

Riyadh is a top backer of Sunni-ruled Bahrain, whose Shiite minority has received support from Tehran. Along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar in June, in part due to its Gulf neighbor’s ties with Iran.

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