Saudi Arabia Flexes its Muscles

The sudden resignation by PM Sa’ad Hariri of Lebanon, which he blamed on Iranian interference in Lebanese politics and which he announced in Saudi Arabia, came as a shock.  Lebanon had gone for months without a leader and now a year after his appointment, which resulted from a careful balancing of Sunni and Shia interests, he has gone.  Further, he gave as the reason for the abruptness of his decision that there had been an assassination attempt planned against him by Iran.  We should note that his father, former PM Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 by a massive explosion that killed 22 people, that was blamed on Syria, a proxy of Iran.

Now Hizbollah, another proxy of Iran, practically controls Lebanon, and nothing can be done there without their approval or that of Iran.  In the Shia-Sunni clash, Saudi Arabia is considered the leader of the Sunnis, so it was logical that Hariri would escape to there to save his life and announce his resignation.  But why now?

King Salman of Saudi Arabia is old and has announced that he is going to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammed.  Yesterday it was announced that some 40 princes and leaders of Saudi society have been arrested in a huge anti-corruption drive.  This is considered by commentators as Mohammed bin Salman preparing the way for his ascension and removing those he considers are not his allies.

Saudi Arabia is a big influential country, with massive oil reserves, but is not considered to be militarily significant.  As such it needs strong allies in its clash with the leader of the Shia cause, Iran.  It has the US, but past acts by US administrations, especially that of Pres. Obama, have caused the Saudis to lose faith in US support.  That is why they have been holding secret talks with Israel.

Maybe when the new vigorous King of Saudi Arabia ascends the throne he will change their positions completely and make an open relationship with Israel.  But, that may be wishful thinking.  Nevertheless it is good that the Saudis are standing up to the Iranians and this makes a common cause between the so-called moderate Sunnis and Israel.

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