Iranian reaction to the visit of Lebanese President Michel Aoun to Saudi Arabia has been two-pronged. On the public level, as Fars News put it, in Riyadh Aoun “defended Lebanon’s relations with Iran while in Riyadh.” This is, of course, a highly sensitive issue for the Iranians who have been strongly courting the new Aoun government and had hoped to see the Lebanese and Saudi governments become more distant from each other in order for Iran to play a bigger role in Lebanese affairs.
However, the decision by Aoun to make his first visit as president to Riyadh must have still troubled Tehran. But Aoun said little publicly while in Riyadh that could have given reason to be concerned. Accordingly, the Iranian press suggested that Aoun had even defended Iran’s close ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement “in the context of the resistance [against Israel].” Aoun’s statement that Lebanon’s “close relations with Iran need not be a barrier to ties to Arab states [such as Saudi Arabia]” was also noted agreeably by Fars News.