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The Saudis’ Bungling in Lebanon

David Ignatius confirms [1] the reporting from earlier this week that the Lebanese Prime Minister is being held by the Saudis in Riyadh against his will and remains under house arrest:

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri is being held by Saudi authorities under what Lebanese sources say amounts to house arrest in Riyadh, apparently as part of the Saudi campaign to squeeze Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.

A startling account of Hariri’s forced detention was provided Friday by knowledgeable sources in Beirut. It offers important new evidence of the tactics used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to bolster his rule by mobilizing anti-Iran sentiment at home and abroad.

Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is employing heavy-handed, clumsy tactics in Lebanon just as he has done in other countries in the region. These tactics are not only crude and obvious (forcing the resignation of another country’s head of government, holding him as a virtual prisoner), but they are proving to be [2] ineffective and self-defeating. If the goal of this dim-witted maneuver was to embarrass Iran over its support for Hezbollah or put additional pressure on Hezbollah inside Lebanon, it could not have been more of a failure. Instead, the Saudis have played into the hands of their regional rivals, alienated their supposed allies, and made themselves the object of scorn for most people in Lebanon. They have badly damaged their own influence while doing absolutely nothing to reduce Iran’s, and it is the same story in every country where the Saudis try this. The Saudis’ more aggressive foreign policy in recent years is yielding far worse results for them at a higher cost, and their neighbors suffer from their destabilizing and destructive blundering.

Consider just how outrageous Saudi behavior is in this case. If another state pulled a stunt like this and forced a different country’s prime minister to resign while he was effectively held captive their capital, we can imagine outraged reaction. This is some of the most damaging political interference one state could engage in at the expense of another. The U.S. shouldn’t want a government that does things like this as a client, and it shouldn’t be assisting such a government as it inflicts devastation and starvation on other countries in the region. MBS’ bungling in Lebanon is just the latest reminder that the U.S. should be disentangling itself from the Saudis as quickly as possible.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "The Saudis’ Bungling in Lebanon"

#1 Comment By a spencer On November 11, 2017 @ 9:55 am

Give credit to MbS for one thing that no one else could do: unite the Lebanese (and remind them that Hariri is also a Saudi citizen).

People can say what they want about Nasrallah but no doubt the man is shrewd. For he, Berri and Aoun to immediately come out and say “we’re Hariri’s political foes, but he’s our Prime Minister and we don’t accept this” should be a wake up call for the Saudis (though it probably won’t be).

#2 Comment By Murali On November 11, 2017 @ 11:24 am

a spencer I totally agree with your comment. Even Hariri’s political party called out the Saudis to release their leader and now get this they praised Statesmanship of Nasrallah. Nobody could have accomplished this other than MBS and his handlers in this administration. Qudos for their insights and Statesmanship

#3 Comment By hale fellows On November 11, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

“MBS’ bungling in Lebanon is just the latest reminder that the U.S. should be disentangling itself from the Saudis as quickly as possible.”

The problem there is that Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of our Middle East policy. So far from “disentangling” us, Kushner wants to push us in even deeper.

Indeed, it is widely suspected that Kushner has been encouraging or even advocating MBS’s reckless behavior, giving MBS the impression that if anything goes wrong America will deal with it. Since Kushner has a long history of serving the fanatical Israeli right (West Bank settlers etc) rather than US national interests, this makes a certain sense: set the Saudis at each other’s throats, heat things up with Iran, then get Uncle Sam to pay the bills, do the fighting, and smooth over ruffled feathers, as we’ve done for Israel for several decades.

Win-win for Israel. America gets screwed, of course, but as Kushner and his friends see it, it’s America’s job to get screwed.

#4 Comment By John Mann On November 11, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

Am I the only one wondering how long MBS can survive? Surely there is only so much damage he can do to Saudi Arabia before someone decides that he has to go.

#5 Comment By Whine Merchant On November 11, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

‘hale fellows’ is spot-on with his comment about Trump having given away the shop to the Saudi regime. Kushner is being played by the masters of the game who dazzle him with the prospect of finally impressing his narcissistic father-in-law.

Trump is just doing whatever Murdoch’s minions instruct him to do on morning cable shows, supported by Israel First evangelicals.

#6 Comment By JEinCA On November 11, 2017 @ 7:42 pm

I really wouldn’t be surprised if there are Israelis and/or Americans involved in this scheme. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if this hairbrain idea was hatched in Langley or Tel Aviv.

#7 Comment By trackfan On November 12, 2017 @ 8:35 am

If we had an real America-first policy, we’d have sided with Iran and Hezbollah in the Sunni-Shiite Civil War. True America-firsters would have been ecstatic about Obama’s reproachement with Iran, rather than doing everything in their power to sabotage it. Since WWII ended, it seems that the U.S. has almost always picked the wrong side in our proxy wars with the Communists, with the one notable exception being South Korea.

#8 Comment By a spencer On November 12, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

(sorry for the outside link)

Here’s an example of how pathetic and absurd this is:


#9 Comment By Jay C On November 12, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

Well, as “pathetic and absurd” – not to mention “outrageous” as MBS’s recent coup/purge/actions/intrigues may be, it’s a fool’s hope to imagine the US (i.e. the Trump Administration) will do the least thing to curtail them. In fact, loud praise and support is the more likely outcome, as long as their actions can be seen to damage “Iranian interests” – the Admin’s pet devils. Said interests have probably been boosted, rather than harmed by recent Saudi actions, but never mind: as long as Trump’s (and the Saudis’ and the Israelis’) Designated Evil Boogeyman is the intended target, “we” are unlikely to do much of anything constructive.
Which seems to be pretty much the Trump regime’s entire approach to foreign policy.