Most of Hezbollah's 80,000 Rockets Come From Iran, Kerry Reportedly Says

In meeting with Gulf States, secretary of state vows U.S. will stand strong with them against 'any external threat.'

AP

Most of Hezbollah's 80,000 rockets come from Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Saturday, Al Arabiya reported, following a meeting with Gulf Arab officials aimed at easing their concerns about warming U.S.-Iranian ties.

According to the report, Kerry also said that Iran's support of the group support is key in the battle to preserving Syrian President Assad's Syrian regime.

Recently a report claimed Russian arms were reaching the group in Syria and last week a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told Haaretz he believes Hezbollah will improve its military capabilities thanks to increasing Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war on Assad's behalf, alongside Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, shake hands after speaking to the media together at King Salman Regional Air Base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016.
AP

Speaking after a meeting in Riyadh with foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council, who have sided with Saudi Arabia in its spat with Iran and who back the Syrian rebels, Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir presented a united front.

“No, I don’t see a coming together of the United States and Iran. Iran remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism,” Jubeir said.

“Overall I think the United States is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities... I don't believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is,” he said.

Kerry tried to assuage Gulf fears, saying that "the relationship between the United States and the GCC nations is one that is built on mutual interest, on mutual defense and I think there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the countries that make up the GCC that the United States will stand with them against any external threat," Kerry said.

Al-Jubeir denounced Iran for its "hostile and aggressive stance" against Arab nations. But he said he did not believe that Washington would act rashly in dealing with Tehran because of the nuclear deal, which was implemented earlier this month and has given Tehran access to billions in formerly frozen assets – assets Kerry reportedly conceded could reach terror groups like Hezbollah.

Jubeir criticized Iran for briefly taking 10 U.S. sailors captive in early January, saying "normal countries do not act like this."

He also took a swipe at Iran by noting that in the prisoner swap that resulted in the release of four imprisoned Americans in Iran, none of the seven Iranians cleared of charges in the United States opted to return to Iran. It "tells you what a great country Iran is that no one wanted to return to it," he said.

Kerry avoided such blunt criticism of Iran but stressed that the U.S. shares concerns about Iran's behavior and will act against it when necessary, including imposing new sanctions, as it did last week in response to Iranian ballistic missile tests.

Shi'ite-led Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia are longtime regional rivals that support opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen. Relations plunged to a new low when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite opposition cleric earlier this month, drawing outrage from Shiites across the region and igniting mob attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Saudi Arabia and some of its allies responded to those attacks by cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran, and accusing Tehran of being behind numerous terrorist attacks around the world over the past three decades.

Although both Riyadh and Tehran have said the mutual animosity won't affect the Syria talks, there are still serious disagreements over who can represent the opposition at the negotiations, which were initially supposed to begin on Monday but are likely to be delayed for several days.