Iran tells Hezbollah to stop attacking Israel, turn attention to Saudi Arabia
Iran has told Hezbollah’s military arm to stop attacking Israel and instead turn its sights to Saudi Arabia, according to a report in MEE.
The instructions come amid the aftermath of the killing of Hezbollah military commander in Syria Mustafa Badreddine, which the Lebanese Shi’ite group blamed on hardline “takfiri” forces backed by Saudi Arabia.
Citing “well informed sources in Lebanon,” MEE says that Qasim Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, personally gave the order to Hezbollah in Beirut.
The report also states that Suleimani announced that Badreddine would be replaced by Fuad Shukr, a 55-year-old member of Hezbollah’s founding group and resident of the Bekaa Valley. This contradicts a previous report in Saudi-linked paper Asharq al-Awsat, which had named Mustafa Mughniyeh, Badreddine’s nephew, as his successor.
Badreddine’s death was originally reported in the Lebanese media as having been the result of an Israeli airstrike near Damascus airport. However, these reports were never confirmed by Hezbollah, who later blamed Sunni militants for the attack. Lebanese media also stopped naming Israel as being behind the attack.
Slogans used by Hezbollah at Badreddine’s funeral also appeared to point the finger at Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s instructions for Hezbollah to attack Saudi Arabia is the latest development in drastically spiraling relations between the two countries, which began after the Saudi government executed prominent Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in at the beginning of the year.
In response, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, after which the Saudis cut off diplomatic ties with Iran.
It was announced last week that the two countries had failed to reach an agreement for Iranian pilgrims to travel to Mecca for the Hajj in light of the severing of relations, meaning that there is almost certain to be no Iranian attendance at the annual pilgrimage.
Iran instructed Hezbollah to strike Saudi Arabia ahead of the start of this year’s Hajj in September, according to MEE.