Moon of Alabama — Nov 7, 2017
The Saudi clown prince Mohammed bin Salman is purging all potential internal resistance and solidifies his dictatorial position. (The move includes a huge money grab. All assets of those accused of corruption are confiscated by the state which, in Saudi Arabia, is the tyrant himself.) The internal consolidation of power is the prelude to a larger external venture.
At the same time as the internal purges proceed, MbS implements an extremely aggressive foreign policy agenda targeted at Iran and its allies. Having been defeated in Iraq and Syria and at a stalemate in Qatar and Yemen, the Saudi ruler decided to try his luck in Lebanon. The Saudi declares war on Lebanon and will put enormous economic and political pressure on it. But all of that will be to no avail. The war will only cause Lebanon to move deeper into the “resistance” camp an join its forces with Syria, Iran and Russia.
(The recap below is mostly an accumulation of sources. My own analysis will follow in a later piece.)
The Saudi plans are well coordinated with the United States and have the full support of the Israeli government. The point man in the Trump administration for all Middle East issues is Trump’s son-in-law (and arch Zionist), Jared Kushner. He made three trips to Saudi Arabia this year, the last one very recently. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius brown noses:
[L]ast month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.
A week ago the Saudi minister (and extremists) Thamer al-Sabhan called for toppling Hizbullah and promised “astonishing developments”. Friday night the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri was ordered back to his home-country Saudi Arabia and pressed to read a resignation statement on a Saudi TV station. None of his advisors in Lebanon knew that this was coming. It is claimed that Hariri did not voluntarily resign and is now under house arrest. There is even a Free Hariri Clock counting the hours, minutes and seconds of his ordeal. The Lebanese President has not accepted the PM’s resignation and demands that Hariri returns to Lebanon. We called the resignation The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah.
On Saturday the Saudi ruler engaged in the night of the long knives and arrested all his potential internal competition.
In the same night, a missile launched by Houthi/Saleh forces in Yemen hit near the airport of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Such missile attacks are in retaliation for the intense two years of Saudi bombing of Yemen which by now probably killed more than a hundred-thousand people. While this was likely unrelated to the other events it added to the general anti-Iranian narrative the Saudis propagate. The Saudis claim that Yemeni missiles are of Iranian origin and launched by Iranian specialists. Iran denies this. Weapon experts at IHS Janes refute that claim:
Burkan-2 missile launched by Houthis is Scud derivative and is unlike variants made by Iran or DPRK.
The Houthi in Yemen is supported by elements of the Yemeni army under command of the former Yemeni President Saleh. The Yemen army has for decades owned and used variants of Scud missiles. It is unlikely that it needs help to modify and launch these.
The Saudis nominally support Yemeni forces under Saleh’s successor Hadi. The former(?) President of Yemen Hadi is, like the former(?) Prime Minister of Lebanon, held under house arrest in Saudi Arabia. The former(?) Palestinian President Abbas, long beyond his legal term, was also summoned to Riyadh. One wonders if he will ever return.
Yesterday the Saudi Minister Thamer al-Sabhan declared war on Lebanon:
Saudi minister of Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against Saudi Arabia because of what he described as aggression against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed group Hezbollah.
“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia due to the aggression of Hezbollah,” he said in response to the recent decisions taken by the Lebanese government.
The Saudi minister said that Hariri and the Lebanese government would not accept the positions of Hezbollah militia, stressing that talk about forcing Hariri to resign lies to disperse Lebanon.
“Lebanon is kidnapped by the militias of Hezbollah and behind it is Iran,” he said.
It seems crazy that the Saudis would open another front in their chaotic war against presumed Iranian influences. Their forces were defeated in Iraq and Syria. Their wars in Yemen and Qatar are in a stalemate. Each of their moves has led to an increase of Iranian influence and power. It is hard to understand why they would want to repeat that experience in Lebanon. It is even harder to understand why the U.S. and Israel support that losing move.
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump – 3:03 PM – 6 Nov 2017
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing….
The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu activated his diplomats to lobby for the Saudi position:
Barak Ravid @BarakRavid – 12:11 PM – 6 Nov 2017
1 I published on channel 10 a cable sent to Israeli diplomats asking to lobby for SaudisHariri &against Hezbollah
2 The cable sent from the MFA in Jerusalem to all Israeli embassies toes the Saudi line regarding the Hariri resignation
3 The Israeli diplomats were instructed to Demarch their host governments over the domestic political situation in Lebanon. Very rare move
4 The cable said: “You need to stress that the Hariri resignation shows how dangerous Iran and Hezbollah are for Lebanon’s security”
5 “Hariri’s resignation proves wrong the argument that Hezbollah participation in the government stabilizes Lebanon”, the Cable added
6 The cable instructed Israeli diplomat to support Saudi Arabia over its war with the Houthis in Yemen
7 The cable also stressed: “The missile launch by the Houthis towards Riyadh calls for applying more pressure on Iran & Hezbollah”. END
There is no common border between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia but there are many economic relations. The Saudis have for years sponsored Sunni clans in Lebanon. Many Gulf Arabs have invested in Beirut. It is their preferred vacation destination. Lebanese companies provide many services within the Gulf countries.
There is little the Saudis can do militarily hurt Lebanon. They might want to move their Al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters from Syria to Lebanon but that will require Turkish cooperation. Even those forces would be no match for Hizbullah as it is deeply anchored within the population of Lebanon.
The Saudis will, like with Qatar, use economic means to squeeze Lebanon. It is quite obvious that such measures will mostly hurt their own constituency in Lebanon. How does that change the situation to their advantage? Analysts agree that the Saudi measures will in fact hurt. But they will also increase Hizbullah’s, Iran’s and Russia’s influence.
Elias Muhanna @QifaNabki – 1:36 PM – 6 Nov 2017
Short of outright war, how might Saudi Arabia put pressure on Hizbullah? (THREAD) 1/
A Saudi minister has announced that the very existence of Hizbullah in the Lebanese govt amounts to a declaration of war. 2/
Short of attacking Lebanon (which Hizb Sec-Gen Nasrallah scoffed at over the weekend), what could Saudi do? 3/
Saudi Arabia might issue a list of demands to the Lebanese govt, similar to what it did with Qatar. 4/
Demands might include: Hizbullah must not be in the government; must disarm; cease all military activities beyond Lebanese borders. 5/
Unless demands are met, KSA could freeze relations w/ LB, close its own borders to LB business, cease all support of LB institutions. 6/
Saudi Arabia wields a huge amount of power over Lebanon; probably more than it does over any other country besides Bahrain. 7/
With this hard-line policy, it sends the signal to Iran that Hzb has grown to be too large and too dangerous. 8/
Hizbullah’s weathered such storms b4 when Israel made threats to hold the Leb govt accountable. 9/
But thumbing nose at Israel w/ Arab world behind you is different from staring down Saudi blockade. 10/
Another analyst, who long lived in Lebanon, has a slightly more positive view. (edited for readability):
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 7:50 PM – 6 Nov 2017
Saudi Arabia is preparing a war against Lebanon: hitting finance first, blocking air traffic exchange, inviting other Arab countries to follow.
Saudi Arabia is bulling Lebanon and is expected to gradually escalate procedures:
Lebanon will have to turn towards Syria for its economy/travel and towards Russia as the USA is turning a blind eye.
Qatar and Iran will support Lebanon’s economy: a new front and solidarity against Saudi Arabian bulling will be created.
Saudi Arabia (wrongly) believes it can lead the Middle East: USA made the same mistake before and that brought Russia in.
Saudi Arabia never had a clear foreign policy, is unaware of diplomacy and is adopting a tribal mentality: with me or against me.
Because @realDonaldTrump has no clue what ME policy is and accepts anything Saudi Arabia is doing more instability is expected.
Israel doesn’t need to act against Hezbollah or #Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is doing the job on its behalf.
The question is: how long can Saudi Arabia hold internally and regionally? Even if not for long, ME is so unstable today …
When Saudi Arabia says: “‘Lebanon is hijacked by Hezbollah and Iran, Saudi will treat Lebanese gov as an enemy of its state” it means that KSA is at war.
But Saudi Arabia is presenting Hezbollah as a kind of” superpower” and/or a “state” to stand against, magnifying it.
The same style is usually used by Israel before taking action against #Hezbollah: Saudi Arabia is copying the rhetoric.
Bahrain, Emirates will have to join Saudi Arabia sooner or later to show KSA is not alone: expect fresh accusations.
Arabs have wealth in Lebanon, proprieties and business, all may be soon affected by Saudi Arabia’s belligerent attitude.
Saudi Arabia seems to enjoy unlimited support: money is powerful, sure. But learn from Syria and the 6 years of war.
Saudi Arabia wants to see a Lebanese government without any Hezbollah minister.
Hezbollah’s influence in #Lebanon doesn’t emanate from the presence of a couple of ministers.
Saudi Arabia wants for Hezbollah to pay the price of its effective role in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, in the defeat of ISIS.
Saudi Arabia wants also to protect the tens of thousands Al Qaeda still in Idlib and it wants to deprive Iran of its arm.
“Defeating” Hezbollah would leave Lebanon unprotected from Israel and pave the road to an Arab official relationship with Tel Aviv.
Even if PM Hariri leaves Saudi Arabia, to Beirut, his family remains behind and he can never go against Saudi will.
The return of Hariri to Lebanon won’t solve the problem but will give more background to the events: no big deal.