The chief of staff of Israel’s military (IDF) told Saudi Alaf newspaper in an unprecedented interview that his country is ready to share intelligence on Iran with Riyadh.
“With President Donald Trump, there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat,” Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told the paper. “We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence to confront Iran.”
When asked whether Israel has recently share intelligence with Saudi Arabia, Eisenkot responded by saying: “We are ready to share information if necessary. There are many common interests between us…”
He also said that Iran is the “biggest threat to the region,” Haaretz reported. He said that Tel Aviv and Riyadh are in full agreement about Iran’s intentions, noting that Israel and Saudi Arabia have never fought each other.
Eisenkot also said that Israel’s security situation has never been better than it is today, claiming that is why “we are highly regarded by the moderate countries in the region.” He went on to accuse Tehran of trying to destabilize the region by building weapons factories and supplying advanced arms to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
“Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East, creating a Shi’ite crescent from Lebanon to Iran, and then from the Gulf to the Red Sea,” Eisenkot said, when asked about Iran’s intended goal. “We must prevent this from happening.”
The IDF chief also stressed that Israel has no intention of launching an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon. “We see Iranian attempts at bringing about an escalation, but I don’t see a high chance for this at the moment,” he said.
Eisenkot’s interview marks the first time that an Israeli chief of staff has been interviewed by a media outlet in Saudi Arabia. The two countries do not have diplomatic ties with one another. Eisenkot’s remarks come despite the IDF chief saying in August 2015 that Iran was not the biggest threat to Israel. Instead, he said that Hezbollah and Hamas were the most immediate threats to Israeli security.
Tel Aviv and Tehran have been arch enemies since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. At that time, the new Iranian government refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state and cut diplomatic ties.
Iran accuses Israel of oppressing Muslims, backing anti-Iranian groups, and of conducting covert operations on Iranian territory. Israel, meanwhile, has been at the forefront of those accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons and blames it for supporting Shiite armed groups such as Hezbollah.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, with Iranian army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi stating in September that the Jewish state may exist for a maximum of 25 more years. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, expressed a similar sentiment in December 2016.
The interview comes after Lebanon’s president confirmed that Prime Minister Saad Hariri is being detained in Saudi Arabia alongside his family, calling the move an “act of aggression” against Lebanon. Hariri resigned as prime minister on November 4, in a televised statement recorded in Saudi Arabia. His unexpected departure from office has led to speculation that he was coerced into stepping down, caught in a power struggle between Riyadh and Tehran.
In his speech, Hariri attacked Iran and Hezbollah for spurring conflict in Arab states, and said he feared assassination. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has also accused the Iran-backed Hezbollah of “hijacking” Lebanon’s political system.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s leader has accused Saudi Arabia of declaring war on the group and on Lebanon, claiming Riyadh detained Hariri and forced him to resign in order to destabilize Lebanon. “It is clear that Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials have declared war on Lebanon and on Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech last week.