Israel tells its envoys to back Saudis, Hariri against Hezbollah, Iran – report

Foreign Ministry instructs ambassadors to begin campaigning against Tehran and Hezbollah’s activities, cites missile attack on Riyadh airport as example of their danger

Saudi King Salman, right, meets with outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)
Saudi King Salman, right, meets with outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 6, 2017. (Saudi Press Agency, via AP)

The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israeli ambassadors around the world to begin in earnest a diplomatic campaign against Iran and Hezbollah that includes backing Saudi Arabian claims that the two Shiite allies were behind a missile attack on Riyadh International Airport over the weekend.

Channel 10 reported Wednesday that the ministry sent a classified memo to Israel’s envoys around the world urging them to contact government officials and plead the case for reining in Iran and its Lebanese proxy.

The missive, reportedly sent Sunday, came the day after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri shocked Lebanon and the region by announcing his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, saying he feared an assassination plot against him. He used the opportunity to lash out at the influence of Hezbollah and Iran on his country.

“The events in Lebanon, and the ballistic missile launched by [Yemen’s rebel] Houthis toward the Riyadh international airport, should cause [the world] to increase the pressure on Iran and Hezbollah on a range of issues, from ballistic missile production to its efforts at regional subversion,” the Foreign Ministry memo read.

The Houthis, a Shiite militia backed by Iran, took credit for the missile, which was intercepted near the Saudi capital’s airport.

“At the request of the director-general you are asked to urgently contact foreign ministries and additional relevant entities at the government level and to stress that Hariri’s resignation and his comments on the reasons that led him to resign illustrate yet again the destructive character of Iran and Hezbollah and their danger to Lebanon’s stability and the countries in the region,” the memo said, according to Channel 10, which said it saw the memo.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Hariri’s resignation proves that the claim heard abroad that Hezbollah’s inclusion in [Lebanon’s] government is a recipe for stability is fundamentally mistaken,” the missive explains. “This artificial unity creates paralysis and prevents domestic political forces from making decisions that serve their national interests. In practice it makes them hostages subject to physical threats who are forced against their will to advance the interests of a foreign power — Iran — even if the matter is likely to endanger the security of their country.”

Israel has long criticized Hezbollah’s involvement in Lebanese politics, where the terror group holds some 10% of the seats in Beirut’s parliament and two out of the tens seats in the cabinet. Funded and equipped by Iran, Hezbollah has fought two wars against Israel since the IDF pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been at odds and back feuding Shiite and Sunni forces throughout the region. Although they do not share formal diplomatic ties, Israel has reportedly forged ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states over a shared distrust of Iran.

Channel 10 also reported — without citing sources — that Egypt had warned Saudi Arabia against putting too much pressure on Iran and Hezbollah as it may quickly plunge the region into violent conflict between Iran and its branches and Saudi Arabia and its allies.

In this photo released on October 30, 2017 by Lebanon’s official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

On Monday, a Saudi minister accused Lebanon of declaring war on the kingdom for failing to keep Hezbollah under control.

“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring a war because of Hezbollah’s militias,” Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan told Saudi news station Al-Arabiya.

Separately, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister accused Iran and Hezbollah of being behind the missile launch by Yemen’s Houthis.

“It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hezbollah, from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” Adel al-Jubeir told CNN on Monday.

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.

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.

Last month Israel Radio reported that a Saudi prince had made a secret diplomatic trip to Israel. The Saudi foreign ministry later denied the the report.

AFP contributed to this report.

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