Over the weekend, here’s what happened in Saudi Arabia:
- Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption committee, led by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, son of King Salman, arrested 17 princes and top officials— enemies of the heir to the crown. The biggest name by far was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns major stakes in Citigroup, Twitter, and News Corp.
- Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin was killed in a helicopter downing near the Yemeni border. Muqrin’s father was the king’s half-brother and was the next in the line of succession before King Salman replaced him with the crown prince.
- Lebanon’s Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, resigned his position while in Saudi Arabia, and announced that he feared assassination by Iran. Hariri’s father was murdered in 2005; Hezbollah is suspected in that assassination.
- Saudi Arabia shot down a ballistic missile over Riyadh. They blamed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and later claimed that technology in the missile came from Iran.
- Finally, on Monday, Saudi Arabia said that Lebanon had declared war on it, thanks to attacks on the country by the terrorist group Hezbollah.
So, what is going on?
This appears to be the Saudi dynasty’s first move toward standing up to the growing Iranian influence in the region. In the wake of President Obama’s Arab Spring, the Iranian sphere of influence has radically increased, while polarizing the Middle East along Sunni-Shia lines: Iran has crafted a swath of power from Iran through Lebanon, and has aggregated power in Yemen to Saudi Arabia’s south, while Saudi Arabia is now openly allied with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Saudi Arabia is feeling threatened, as they should.
But just as importantly, the Saudi regime itself may be teetering. Saudi Arabia is already at 12% unemployment, and its population is disproportionately young; it is also heavily divided between more moderate Muslims and terror-supporting fundamentalists. In the past, this has raised suspicions that the Saudi government was paying off fundamentalist terror groups to ensure its own survival. Saudi Arabia’s oil industry has also taken a heavy hit in recent years thanks to new technological developments, and the government’s desire to outpace Iranian oil production in order to damage the Islamic Republic economically. Iran knows this, and they’ve been talking about it openly for years. In 2015, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stated, “Al Saud is teetering on the edge of collapse.”
All of this may be exaggerated, but the Saudi regime has an interest in doing three things: making clear to the population that the greatest threat is an external one springing from Iran; re-enshrining support from the American government, through modernization and willingness to fight terrorism; solidifying domestic rule. That appears to be what the Saudis are doing.
The question is whether this will actually lead to war. There’s little question that as Iran rises, the Saudis must grow more active; by the same token, Iran doesn’t want war now, particularly if the United States were to come in on the Saudi side. Saudi Arabia knows that and may be attempting brinksmanship before the winds of power shift against them.
Reported by: The Daily Wire