It appears every week brings us closer to all out war in the middle east. This past week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia consolidated his power by arresting 11 of his royal cousins. The arrests, were without formal charges or any legal process and were presented as a crackdown on corruption.
The western world, all to careful not to criticize America’s allies, has championed the so-called crack down on corruption as well as other domestic reforms. Finally allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive for example. While all this restructuring is happening quickly at home however, the region is in increasing turmoil.
For starters, we need not look further than Saudi Arabia’s neighbor to the south, Yemen. Just as America likes to wage war on the poorest of countries, so too does Saudi Arabia. The American backed Saudi coalition has been bombing the country back to the stone age for the last two years to put down an uprising by the Shia led Houthi political movement.
The entire country of Yemen is surrounded by the Saudi coalition and the blockade they’ve imposed, unless lifted, will lead to the starvation of up to seven million Yemeni citizens in the coming weeks. Despite the United States providing weapons, air support and logistics, Congress has refused to act and the American media has barely mentioned it.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has had his hands full. In addition to countering the rebellion in Yemen, the Prince seems to be tasked with the responsibility of turning the tide of Iranian influence in the region.
Iran is a predominately Shiite country, but only about 15% of Muslims worldwide call themselves Shiite. Shia Muslims are considered less radical and more peaceful. Iran, like any regional power, lends it support to other countries where Shiites are fighting for control such as post war Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and of course Yemen.
Needless to say, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been regional and religious rivals seemingly since the beginning of time and therefore see each other as a threat. The question lies with stability.
In the past months, Saudi Arabia has sought to destabilize the region by first boycotting Qatar with it’s allies over some fabricated quotes from the county’s Emir.
Crown Prince Salman then blamed Iran on a number of incidents. The first being a rocket fired from Yemen over Riyadh. Iran denies providing missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, which the United States now says they can prove. However, it should be noted that simply selling or providing weapons to allies is not a declaration of war, a differing in what Saudi Arabia would have us believe.
A few days later we saw the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. In televised remarks, Mr Hariri said that he was stepping down because of an unspecified threat to his life. He then accused Iran and Hezbollah, a Shia group, of taking over Lebanon and destabilising the wider region and has not spoken since.
Within Lebanon however, no one believes Hariri’s remarks to be true. Iran and Hezbollah, accuse Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. “The obscurity surrounding the condition of Prime Minister Saad Hariri since his resignation a week ago means that all positions and actions declared by him or attributed to him do not reflect the truth,” President Aoun said.
Last Thursday Saudi Arabia and its regional allies issued a travel warning to the country and ordered their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. Suggesting of course that hostilities are around the corner.
So why the sudden hawkish rhetoric from Saudi Arabia? Hostilities with Iran are nothing new, but proxy wars on multiple fronts and the threat of a wider conflict are rather unprecedented. What is Mohammed bin Salman’s motivation?
A few weeks ago, President Trump decided to not re-certifying the multi-national deal that effectively prevents Iran from perusing nuclear weapons. For the past few months he has also pondered the idea of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Before the purge in Saudi Arabia, I believed President Trump was laying the ground work for war with Iran. Now I’m increasingly convinced that Saudi Arabia will do it for them (or with them). Donald Trump’s first foreign visit as President was, after all, to the Kingdom of Saud. We may now be finding out why.
Trump knows less about foreign policy then the average Fox News viewer, but he does know Saudi Arabia and Israel are America’s allies. Both have the utmost hatred for Iran and both are counties that Trump had hoped to invest in before becoming President. As corrupt as Trump can be, and this is pure speculation of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Donald capitalizes on any confrontation in the region.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, recently met with Prince Salman for the third time since Trump took office. Foreign Policy magazine has suggested that Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu are up to something. That something is a plan to squeeze Iran. The enemy of my enemy is my friend as they say.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been in a state of cold war for decades, but it is increasing looking like the holy trio of Arabia, Israel and the U.S. are willing to warm it up. Potentially to a boiling point. The Middle East may burn and once again the United States will have its hands on the flame thrower.