November 8, 2017
Over the past few days, a series of events have occurred which rocked the geopolitical scene and effecting a number of countries specifically such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iran. Naturally, the events that taking place in these locations are immensely important for the rest of the world and, for that reason, other regional and international players are being drawn into the drama as well.
While it would be foolish to pretend to know all the details taking place behind the scenes, we are still able to analyze current events in order to attempt to gain a greater understanding of where the situation is heading and thus have a better understanding of how to respond to them. The article that follows is simply an attempt to point to the most logical conclusion regarding these events.
The Saudi Purge
Beginning the sequence of events that have now culminated with thinly veiled hints at actual war between at least three nations, the Saudi purge began with little warning and is continuing today. Essentially, under the guise of a massive anti-corruption push, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman launched a campaign that saw a volley of arrests of officials, royal family members, government officials, and members of the Saudi military. At least eleven princes were arrested by security forces, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a well-known billionaire investor, and four ministers, including the minister in charge of the National Guard. Several former ministers were also arrested. A highly suspicious helicopter crash that was carrying Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of Saudi Arabia’s southern Asir Province, along with seven other high ranking officials, should also be noted since all eight men were killed in the crash.
The anti-corruption committee was technically set up by the current King Salman. However, it is well-known that the individual most active in the anti-corruption push is Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) and that he is essentially the spearhead of the recent roundup. It is, at the end of the day, an MBS policy. Mohammad bin Salman is now 32 years old and is next in line for the throne when the current King abdicates.
The biggest question in regards to this shakeup in Saudi Arabia is thus whether or not this anti-corruption move is one of a true desire to reform the backwards nation. While it is possible that the incoming King will look to improve living conditions – he has ushered in very small largely symbolic expansion of women’s rights and signaled that the coddling of religious extremism will cease – it is also possible and much more likely that the move is simply an effort to consolidate power before actually taking the throne. Some have even suggested that MBS was attempting to stave off a coup against him by the West, angry at his burgeoning relationship with Russia and China and thus he was forced to enact a counter-coup. However, a closer look at the events surrounding the purge and KSA’s current temperament toward both foreign and domestic affairs should shed some light on the nature of the roundup.
There are two telling aspects to this purge that should have some attention drawn to them. The first is that, despite the minor reforms and the signal that MBS is moving away from coddling extremism, there have been no signs that the war in Yemen is abating. In fact, anti-Iran rhetoric has even intensified over the last few days. There is also the question of the involvement in the Hariri resignation and how that resignation will negatively affect Hezbollah and Iran. More specific, how those negative effects were the purpose of the resignation to begin with.
The reforms themselves also need to be examined. While backing away from extremism is undoubtedly a welcome sign as is greater rights for women and religious minorities, it also involves the privatization of many government holdings and services that suggest KSA will actually just be implementing an unworkable form of neo-liberal privatization. It is also important to point out that U.S. President Donald Trump recently stated that Aramco should be offered up for investors in the United States stock exchange market, a statement made during the shakeup in Saudi Arabia. The nature of the economic reforms thus suggest that Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the West is continuing unabated and perhaps that its role is becoming less important.
With all this in mind, and with the context of threatening war with Lebanon and Iran, it seems Mohammad bin Salman is merely attempting to tighten his grip on the Saudi government and reign in some of the recklessness that has plagued the governmental structure of Saudi Arabia for years. In order to retain power, he must have the military on his side and he must be surrounded by trusted officials. More importantly, these individuals must be loyal to Salman. This is perhaps the main reason behind the crackdown on corruption and the number of arrests in Saudi Arabia.
The Hariri Resignation
During the midst of the Saudi shakeup, another shakeup occurred in Lebanon. Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, his anger at Hezbollah and Iran, and a plot on his life. Moreover, he announced his resignation from inside Saudi Arabia, shortly after a meeting with the Saudi King.
It is noteworthy to mention that Hariri, who was tapped to become Prime Minister by Lebanese President Michel Aoun as a power-sharing agreement and a move toward domestic peace in Lebanon, is also a dual Saudi citizen and billionaire in his own right.
As the Washington Post reports,
Through Hezbollah, Iran has created “a state within a state” in Lebanon, Hariri said in a televised address from Riyadh. He accused Iran of sowing “sedition, devastation and destruction in any place it settles in.”
“I want to tell Iran and its followers that they are losing in their interferences in the affairs of Arab nations. Our nation will rise just as it did before, and the hands that will harm it will be cut,” Hariri said, suggesting that his move represented the beginning of a broader effort backed by Saudi Arabia to confront Iran in Lebanon.
Notably, Israel praised the move and the statements. Hariri has long been known to be an extension of Saudi influence in Lebanon just as Hezbollah is an extension of Iranian influence. Thus, the Aoun/Hariri alliance was a symbol of peace and power sharing. This resignation, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, throws that peace into question.
Indeed, it seems almost certain that this was what the Saudis had planned all along; i.e. to sow seeds of discord and chaos in Lebanon in order to punish Hezbollah and Iran.
There is no question that Iran is spreading its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah. But for Saudi Arabia to criticize Iran for such “meddling” while it maintains influence over the Prime Minister is hypocrisy to say the least. Particularly when Hezbollah has fought against ISIS and other Western-backed terrorists in both Lebanon and Syria while KSA has funded and directed them. Not to mention that Hezbollah’s primary focus is defense of Lebanon against Israeli aggression.
Regardless, it seems that the Hariri resignation was most likely orchestrated by the Saudis as an attempt to cause chaos among the Lebanese population and possibly igniting another civil war if taken to its extreme. As the U.S. and KSA watch their terrorists defeated in both Lebanon and Syria, they also watch Nasrallah and Hezbollah’s popularity grow in the country and, with that popularity, so grows the influence of Iran. Outside of some major action such as a color revolution or military assault, Hezbollah is not going anywhere. But, with domestic chaos surrounding the loss of a Prime Minister, controversy over the influence of Iran and Hezbollah, and the possibility of igniting some limited but spreadable physical violence in places like Tripoli (to be exported to the rest of the country), the plan could gum up the works through inaction in the government. It could also lead to clashes and a civil war if events are taken to the extreme. At the very least, it could have the effect of causing Hezbollah fighters to leave Syria and return to Lebanon in order to prepare for conflict or protect their current holdings. Thankfully, real leaders in Lebanon have called for calm and the Lebanese people have hitherto shown no interest in unrest.
Ultimately, we will discover what is truly behind this resignation retroactively since we will have to observe Saudi behavior over the course of the next few weeks and months to determine just how big the ripples in the geopolitical waters will be.
The U.S. Licks Its Lips Over Aramco
As the Saudis see the inevitable end to their lavish oil revenues coming into view, the kingdom seems stuck between trying to adapt their economy and stubbornly staying with the current model, KSA is also debating whether or not to float a portion of Aramco, the government owned oil company, for private foreign investment. Amidst the Saudi crackdown, however, U.S. President Donald Trump is publicly pressuring Saudi Arabia to put its shares up for sale on the American stock exchanges. As the New York Times writes,
In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Trump urged Saudi Arabia to pick the Big Board as the international venue for the initial public offering of Aramco.
“I want them to strongly consider the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq,” he said at Yokota Air Base after arriving in Japan for a 12-day tour through Asia.
“I just spoke to the king a little while ago, and they will consider it,” he said, referring to King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
The president also mentioned the I.P.O. in a tweet on Saturday. “Important to the United States!” he wrote.
It appears that the financial interests in the United States are steady licking their lips for a bite into the Saudi oil giant, a major first step in neo-liberal policies which KSA has signaled are coming soon.
The Yemen Missile – Threats of War With Iran
Also during the midst of the Saudi crackdown and the resignation of Hariri, a missile was shot down near the main airport in Riyadh. The missile was apparently fired by Houthi militants as a defensive retaliation for KSA’s war horrendous war against civilians there. Saudi Arabia has consistently argued that Iran is supporting the Houthis and has characterized the missile launch as an “act of war” by Iran. While it is rather obvious to anyone observing the situation in Yemen that Iran is supporting the Houthi fighters, there has been no evidence to demonstrate that Iran has provided any type of weaponry to the Houthis. However, Saudi Arabia claims it has evidence that the missile which was shot down over the airport was made in Iran and smuggled into Yemen.
As FOX News reports,
The attempted missile strike was "a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime and could rise to be considered as an act of war," the Saudi Press Agency said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia “reserves its right to respond to Iran in the appropriate time and manner, in accordance with international law and based on the right of self-defense," the statement continued.
Speaking to CNN, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir unambiguously charged that Iran had effectively declared war.
"We see this as an act of war," he said. "Iran cannot lob missiles at Saudi cities and towns and expect us not to take steps."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called Saudi Arabia's claims "false, irresponsible, destructive and provocative," according to the Iranian news agency Tasnim.
The truth is that Saudi Arabia has no one to blame for the missile in Riyadh but itself. It was not Iran who launched a war on civilians in Yemen. It was not Iran who installed a puppet government in Yemen and expected the Yemeni people to live under it. It is not Iran that refuses to listen to any reason and end the war. It is Saudi Arabia. Thus, the fault of the missile in Riyadh lies entirely with the Saudis.
It is readily apparent, however, that Saudi Arabia is using the missile as an opportunity to promote and threaten Iran even to the point of openly stating that the missile was an “act of war” in and of itself.
Threats of War With Lebanon
After stating that Iran had committed an “act of war” Saudi Arabia promptly went on to say something similar about Lebanon. As Reuters reports,
Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he described as aggression by Hezbollah.
Faulting the Hariri-led administration for failing to take action against Hezbollah during a year in office, Sabhan said “there are those who will stop (Hezbollah) and make it return to the caves of South Lebanon”, the heartland of the Shi‘ite community.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he added: “Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return.”
He did not spell out what action Saudi Arabia might take against Lebanon, a country with a weak and heavily indebted state that is still rebuilding from its 1975-90 civil war and where one-in-four people is a Syrian refugee.
There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese government.
The Big Picture
Taking all of the above incidents into proper context – in addition to the fact that Israel has repeatedly threatened and partially invaded Syria as well as hinted at a future war with Lebanon/Hezbollah – it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture of what is happening. Amid a massive roundup of Saudi royal family members and government officials, Saudi Arabia is using threatening war with two countries and has apparently initiated an attempt to cause chaos and destabilization in Lebanon in order to weaken Hezbollah and Iran. While Saudi Arabia has shown itself to be foolish enough to mire itself down in a war which it is losing in Yemen, it is not likely that it would provoke a wider war with Iran and Hezbollah unless there were a bigger hand behind it. In other words, it is not believable that Saudi Arabia would make these moves without U.S. backing and without coordination directly or through the United States, with Israel.
The events in Lebanon, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia are only now just beginning to unfold and the reverberations could possibly send shockwaves through the region and the rest of the world if they are not soon contained.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The Outcome. Turbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST atUCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.
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Image Credit: 21st Century Wire
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