Trump’s bizarre obeisance to Saudi Arabia

One of the least talked about but most important stories of the year is unfolding right now in the Middle East. An emboldened and seemingly power-drunk Saudi Arabia is haphazardly throwing its weight around, both at home and in Lebanon and Yemen, ratcheting up tensions with Iran and seemingly doing so with the blessing of the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, one of the country’s crown princes — Mohammed bin Salman, known by the cool kids in D.C. as MBS — arrested a slew of family, political, and military rivals and had them imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Their fate remains unknown, but the sweep has been so comprehensive that they are quartering new detainees in the nearby Courtyard By Marriott too — pity the more recently arrested. MBS is pulling a classic, new-in-town hereditary dictator move, trying to convince his Beltway patrons that he’s just a young reformer trying to drag his country kicking and screaming into modernity. But that’s not what’s actually happening.

The reshuffling in Riyadh is just one sign among many that the Kingdom sees no meaningful constraints on its behavior. Saudi military forces sealed off neighboring Yemen as they prepare to extinguish the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, likely with a level of depravity that requires absolute secrecy of the sort that allowed the Sri Lankan government to liquidate the Tamil Tigers in 2009. And then there is the sudden and mysterious resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia, where he is either intentionally biding his time until Hezbollah is crushed, or is under house arrest by the new majesties and potentates in Riyadh. Hariri’s bizarre interview on Sunday only created more intrigue. “I have complete freedom, but I want to look after my family as well,” a nervous-looking Hariri said.

What does that even mean?

Is Hariri’s bizarre resignation a ploy to get Hezbollah — an Iran-backed Shiite militia that nevertheless is part of the government in Lebanon — to withdraw its forces in Syria backing the Assad regime? Is he acting on his own or was this orchestrated by MBS? Who or what is going to eliminate the influence of Hezbollah there? Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah have so much invested in the Syrian regime at this point that it seems unlikely they would collectively crack for the sake of the hapless Hariri, whose father the Syrians didn’t think …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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