Despite Saudi Arabia’s tough rhetoric and brutal assault against its neighbor, Yemen (the poorest country in the region), the unfortunate reality is that Saudi Arabia is not the strongman it has hopelessly painted itself to be. This isn’t conjecture or an attempt to needlessly bolster and promote regional rivals such as Iran, as has become the trend among anti-imperialist commentators.
Yes, Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich country who uses its money to great effect on the international level. Saudi Arabia’s relationships with nuclear powers Russia and China have also been intensifying. However, what the media won’t tell you is that there’s actually a hidden reason why Russia offered to sell Saudi Arabia its advanced S-400 missile defense system while spending years flirting with selling Iran a the lesser S-300 system. According to Asia Times:
“Russia’s carefully-calibrated weapons sales to the opposing Persian Gulf powers follows a pattern established by China over the past decade. China sells missiles to Iran as well as to the KSA, but it sells more advanced missiles to the Saudis, because the Saudis are the weaker of the two adversaries, and China wants to maintain the balance of power. Russia has been called a ‘spoiler’ in the Middle East so often that the term clings like a Homeric epithet. In recent weeks, Russian policy has shifted to classic balance-of-power politics.” [emphasis added]
China knows this, Russia knows this, and most importantly, Saudi Arabia knows this, too.
That is why on multiple occasions, Saudi Arabia has expressed its desire to “have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia.”
And when the Kingdom says it wants to have the battle “in Iran,” it doesn’t appear to mean that Saudi Arabia is in any way close to launching a strike or invasion anywhere close to Iran. Rather, it appears the anti-Iran axis will continue the same tried and true strategy it failed to implement in Syria and in neighboring Lebanon, whereby regional powers funneled weapons, money, and fighters to bolster Sunni extremists attempting to topple the Syrian government. Over half a decade later — with hundreds of thousands of bodies left buried beneath the rubble — it appears the plan to destabilize Syria has failed abysmally.
If destabilizing Lebanon through indirect means doesn’t work out, Saudi Arabia evidently has plans to use the Israeli military to do its work for them, as Middle East Eye explained:
“Saudi Arabia will only be able to destabilize Lebanon if it works with Israel, the only country with the military capabilities to threaten Lebanon’s fragile peace. Will Mohammed bin Salman go as far as striking a deal with Israel in which he offers full normalisation in return for Israel destroying Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon?”
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has essentially captured the Lebanese prime minister in its latest attempt to bully another country into direct submission. Never mind that Saudi Arabia and a host of its allies already embarrassed themselves drastically by trying to teach Qatar a lesson for being friendly with Iran and having an independent media that doesn’t kowtow to Saudi Arabia’s demand. The Saudis apparently thought kidnapping an elected official would somehow save themselves from their complete demise as a regional power.
There’s a reason Saudi Arabia and Israel – two ideologically opposed nightmares – have begun bonding publicly since Trump’s election victory. There’s also a reason why not so long ago, Israel held its largest military drill in twenty years. It simulated a full-on invasion of Lebanon with the specific intention of going after Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia proxy militia. In fact, Israel has been planning for a major war for some time now, yet the mainstream media hasn’t deemed this to be anywhere near as newsworthy as it should be.
There’s also a reason why Saudi Arabia warned its citizenry to leave Lebanon immediately. Saudi Arabia is not taking its war to Iran, it’s taking its war to Lebanon, the latest victim in the anti-Iran coalition’s ongoing pursuit to confront Iran’s growing sphere of regional influence.
One should bear in mind that Lebanon was one of the seven countries listed in four-star General Wesley’s Clark’s exposed memo of nations the U.S. intended to topple following 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Further, Israel already tried its hand at invading Lebanon in 2006 but was by all accounts unsuccessful.
This time, Saudi Arabia and Israel have publicly made clear their mutual interest in pursuing a confrontation in Lebanon. No one will admit it, but Saudi Arabia is in trouble. While grappling with this growing reality, the country has to find a way to ensure it doesn’t lose out massively to Tehran, its regional arch-rival.
But Hezbollah is not going anywhere in Lebanon. The country’s president – who is a Christian – already affirmed in September of this year that he sees Hezbollah as necessary to ensure Lebanese resistance to Israel. This is why Israel labeled both Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah as its foe — the two are heavily intertwined.
Therefore, bullying Lebanon into conceding to Saudi Arabia and Israel will be close to impossible without using direct force.
Given Hezbollah’s battle-hardened resolve in the Syrian conflict, its surge in membership, its growing alliance with Russia and Iran, and its newly acquired stash of weaponry, one can only hope Saudi Arabia and Israel are fully prepared not only for a Syrian War 2.0 but also for the regional explosion that could ignite if these wars in the Middle East are not significantly de-escalated and scaled back within the next few years.