Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country, provided financial support to a charity foundation that has been linked to Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist group based in Lebanon, according to an Arabic-language cable released by WikiLeaks.
“One of the cables reveal[s] that the sister of a well-known Shia cleric approached Saudi Arabia for donations,” explains Global Voices Online, citing the information released by WikiLeaks. “Al-Sadr charity foundation is named after Mosa Al-Sadr, who is the founder of the Lebanese Shia party AMAL, a group closely affiliated with [Hezbollah].”
Global Voices Online did not say when the cable was written.
“Despite the widely used narrative of the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East, the kingdom’s decision was to provide … the foundation with financial support without publicizing it,” the organization continues. “That indicates that they’re trying to create alliances with ideological rivals. The sectarian divide is more a matter of conflict of interest unlike what a lot of media outlets try to portray.”
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that public opinion in Saudi Arabia has turned “solidly against” Iran and its ally Hezbollah.
“Israel is an enemy because of its origin, but isn’t an enemy because of its actions—while Iran is an enemy because of its actions, not because of its origin,” Abdullah al Shammari, an academic in Riyadh who served as a senior Saudi diplomat, told the Journal.
“This means that Iran is more of a threat. If I were a Saudi decision maker, I would not hesitate for a second to coordinate with Israel against Iran’s nuclear program,” he added.
The interests of Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah do overlap at times.
Although Iran is currently considered more of a threat than Israel in Saudi Arabia, both Hezbollah and the Saudis still see Israel as an enemy. Some Saudis consider Israel an enemy, not a threat. Meanwhile, they consider Iran a threat and an enemy, Israel then becoming the lesser of two evils for the moment.
Saudi Arabia has never recognized Israel as a state.
Moreover, Hezbollah, in coordination with forces allied with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, has been fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. ISIS could be considered Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia’s common enemy, since the kingdom is participating in the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadist group.
Saudi Arabia has called for Assad, who receives most of his support from Iran and Russia, to be removed from power.
Assad has accused Saudi Arabia and ISIS of following the same Sunni Wahhabism ideology. The move to support a group aligned with Hezbollah could be proof of the Saudis desire to influence the Shia movement to their favor.
Last week, WikiLeaks released more than 60,000 cables and documents that it says are official communications from the Saudi government. It reportedly plans to release nearly half a million in total. Saudi Arabia claims the information released by WikiLeaks is fake.