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U.S. official: Iran considers Saudi Arabia, not Israel, its enemy

Al Arabiya News

February 1, 2014

Former U.S. ambassador Frederic Hof has revealed that Iranian officials, in private meetings, told him that Iran is not in conflict with the United States or Israel but rather believe Saudi Arabia to be the main threat considering its perceived tampering in Syria, Kuwait’s daily al-Rai reported.

The former special advisor for transition in Syria at the U.S. Department of State spoke at a congressional panel discussion this week and shed light on the undisclosed meetings that are frequently held between U.S. and Iranian officials.

According to Hof, one Iranian official told him that "neither the U.S. nor Israel intervened in Syria," adding that the real problem was Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent, Turkey.

Hof said that Iran believes Saudi Arabia to be Iran’s real enemy inside and outside Syria, and not Israel.

"Iran is concerned about the consequences of the sectarian and civil war in Syria, but Saudi Arabia will benefit from sectarianism in the region," Iranian officials reportedly told Hof.

"The United States and Iran have common interests in containing the sectarian war in the region and defeating Saudi Arabia that has challenged the U.S.," Hof said, relaying what an Iranian official had expressed to him.

Hof added that "Russia favors the survival of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and that this is the crux of the matter," adding "he is not sure about the extent that Russia is ready to undertake to ensure that Assad remains in power."

Hof stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Assad to remain in power because he wants Russia to be the sole "great power." According to Hof, Putin wishes to drive home the message that when Russia stands by a friend, that friend is sure to win whatever conflict they are embroiled in.

Hezbollah and Iran

Hof quoted Iranian officials as saying that "Hezbollah is Iran’s main line of defense in case Israel [decides] to launch an attack against its nuclear facilities."

He added that "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."

"keeping Hezbollah always ready to fight, is not an easy task for Iran, and since Bashar [al-Assad] has no problem in conveying weapons and spare parts from Iran to Hezbollah, Iran will uncompromisingly support him," he said.

"Iran sees Bashar as a key pillar," Hof added, "and Tehran sees him as the cornerstone of the Iranian regime; if he falls everything that Iran has planned will fall as well. Iran believes that overthrowing Bashar would be a test before leading the bigger operation: toppling the Iranian regime." This is why Iranian officials reject the possibility of any political solution in Syria, stated the official.

Hof also indicated that "Iran is not ready to take into consideration any suggestion to replace the regime of Bashar with another regime even if it will similarly support Hezbollah. Iran considers that anyone succeeding Assad will represent a great loss in the interests of Iran’s national security."

Hof further quoted an Iranian official as saying: "Iran is arming Syrian Shiites and other militias and its purpose is not providing support to Assad’s regime, but maintaining the bond with Hezbollah in case the Syrian regime collapses."



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:: Article nr. 104608 sent on 03-feb-2014 18:14 ECT

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