By Karl Radl
For those who closely monitor events in the Middle East, in particular the ongoing Syrian Civil War and the recent purges in Saudi Arabia, (1) the shock resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri while on official business in Saudi Arabia on 4th November and his public denunciation of Hezbollah combined into a watershed moment in Middle Eastern politics. (2)
Many people doubt that Hariri is acting of his own accord, but rather has been illegally placed under house arrest by the Saudi government and forced to manufacture a political crisis in Lebanon by resigning and then denouncing one of the most powerful political forces in the country, a force which also happens to be an avowed foe of Saudi Arabia. (3) Even the propagandists of the Israel lobby such as Michael Totten in ‘Middle East Affairs’ have come round to the conclusion that this is exactly what has happened. (4)
This contention has been further strengthened by the absolute shock and indignation at the occurrence expressed by Lebanon’s Sunni community, Saudi Arabia’s only allies in the country. (5) Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has openly declared that he believes Hariri has been kidnapped and is being held against his will by Saudi authorities. (6)
The Saudi motive is obvious enough.
Iran has emerged as the main beneficiary of the winding down of the Syrian Civil War. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, have gained a tremendous amount of combat experience and tested both their tactics and their military hardware in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (7)
This places Saudi Arabia – which has deployed its own forces for several years against Iranian backed Shi’ite rebels in occupied Yemen – (8) in a very real predicament, as Iran has reportedly established permanent forward operating bases in southern Syria. (9)
These allegations make perfect sense, and it is plausible to assume the existence of these bases. The bases would allow Iran to directly supply Saudi Arabia’s foes in Lebanon, the most prominent of which is Hezbollah. It would also allow the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah direct access to the Sunni heartlands in western Iraq and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It would also provide a staging post for potential operations into the largely unguarded west of Saudi Arabia itself.
Obviously, this is not a desirable situation for the Saudis, particularly for a prince as jingoistic as the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (10) Prince Salman, however, needs a powerful regional ally to help him address this change in the balance of power in the region, because – let’s face it – the Saudi military is not exactly a powerful army, despite its modern equipment. This has been pointedly proven by its consistent failure against poorly-armed but determined Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The ally they have turned to is not a traditional one for the Saudis, but rather is a regional rival and sometime enemy. However, it stands to lose just as much as Saudi Arabia due to the expansion of Iranian influence and power projection capabilities. (11)
The ally is the state of Israel.
Israel has demonstrated publicly that it is happy to assist a Saudi military attack on Lebanon with intelligence and perhaps even its own forces. (12) It is happy to ally with the Saudis to destabilize its northern neighbor and economic competitor, which is also the home turf of one of its most implacable enemies: Hezbollah. It would also fit nicely into Israel’s push to annex more territory and to attempt to settle one million Israelis in the north of the country. (13)
It is rumored that Saudi-Israeli relations are going to be normalized soon. (14) Indeed, Israel, for the first time in its history, cosponsored with Saudi Arabia a UN Human Rights Council resolution on 14th November. The resolution condemns Hezbollah and Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (15)
It is also widely believed that the only thing holding Israel and Saudi Arabia from launching a full-scale assault on Lebanon is the United States, which is fully exercising its diplomatic muscle to prevent an escalation of the war in the Middle East. (16)
Despite this, Prince Salman is allegedly offering Israel billions of dollars in subsidies – in effect pledging to recoup all of Israel’s costs – to undertake yet another invasion of Lebanon. (17) Analysts are divided on whether Israel will take him up on the offer. (18)
It is also increasingly rumored that Prince Salman will be formally named as the new king of Saudi Arabia this week. (19) This is alarming in the light of information that has emerged stating that he has issued an explicit demand to Hezbollah that they lay down their weapons “or else,” which is not exactly a diplomatic way to defuse an escalating regional crisis. (20)
What we are seeing is a piece of Judeo-Islamic imperialism that must be crushed in its infancy lest they light a fuse to the whole region. If this occurs, the Syrian Civil War will be but a precursor to a war of unprecedented scale in the Middle East, a war during which the combined operations of the Israel and Saudi lobbies in the United States will do their utmost to ensure that the US military ends up expending as yet untold mountains of blood and treasure to win.
(1) http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/house-of-saud-what-the-royal-purge-means-for-saudi-arabia-and-the-world-117111300548_1.html ; Is the Saudi Purge Really About Corruption? | Foreign Affairs ; http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/london-conference-discuss-crisis-saudi-arabia-171116111007130.html
(2) TV interview with Lebanon PM fuels rumors of Saudi coercion | The Times of Israel
(4) http://www.meforum.org/7014/is-lebanon-prime-minister-a-saudi-hostage ; similarly see https://www.thejc.com/news/world/lebanon-leadership-crisis-more-about-saudi-arabia-than-iran-1.448115
(6) Lebanese PM's movement 'restricted' in Saudi Arabia, says president | The Times of Israel
(7) A Saudi prince is shaking up the Middle East — and may be pushing it toward war
(8) Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of 'direct aggression' over Yemen missile | World news | The Guardian ; The Future of Saudi Arabia Will Be Written in Yemen - The Atlantic
(9) Iranian military force taking shape right under Israel’s nose
(10) A Saudi prince is shaking up the Middle East — and may be pushing it toward war
(11) Ibid; https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-gives-lukewarm-welcome-to-future-syria-principles/2017/11/12/660f17c8-c7bd-11e7-b506-8a10ed11ecf5_story.html?utm_term=.87ff42e77cc1 ; At Moscow's Mercy: Israeli Operational Freedom in Syria - Matzav Blog ; Lieberman in message to Russia: Israel wont allow Iranian presence in Syria ; http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Will-there-be-a-Russian-Turkish-Iranian-alliance-514081
(12) In first-ever Saudi interview, IDF head says ready to share intel on Iran | The Times of Israel ; Even with the Saudis cheering, war with Hezbollah would spell disaster | The Times of Israel ; https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.822797 ; Fundamental Saudi shifts and the change coming to the Middle East | HuffPost ; Netanyahu: Iranian Leaders' Hate for Israel Greater Than Love for Their Own People | United with Israel ; Israeli Defense Minister: We Will Not Allow “Iranian Entrenchment” in Syria | The Tower
(13) Israeli minister: Prepare for one million Israelis in Judea and Samaria ; Israel vows ‘never to withdraw from Golan Heights’ after annexing the area between Syria | Daily Mail Online ; http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/With-Syria-in-pieces-its-time-to-recognize-Israels-annexation-of-the-Golan-488381 ; https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.715143
(14) Report: Saudi Arabia mulling normalization with Israel - Israel National News ; https://www.timesofisrael.com/pro-hezbollah-paper-alleges-saudis-made-plans-for-ties-with-israel
(15) Israel co-sponsors Saudi resolution against Syria ; Israel Co-Sponsors Saudi Resolution Against Syria at UN | United with Israel
(16) https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/11/us-counseling-restraint-saudi-arabia-israel-syria-back-druze.html ; Fundamental Saudi shifts and the change coming to the Middle East | HuffPost
(17) Report: Saudi Prince promises Israel billions of dollars to defeat Hezbollah
(19) Report claims Saudi king, 81, to hand reins to son next week | The Times of Israel
(20) Saudi Arabia calls on Hezbollah to disarm, threatens its ouster from Lebanon | The Times of Israel