Donate

Saudi Arabia Isn’t Destabilizing Lebanon, It’s Trying to Rescue It

Nov. 20 2017

On November 4, in the midst of a major internal shakeup in Riyadh, Saad Hariri gave a press conference there announcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon, citing the terrorist group Hizballah’s control of his country as the cause. There is little doubt that the Saudis encouraged the decision. While some commentators have accused the kingdom of fomenting chaos in already fragile Lebanon, Elliott Abrams argues that it is responding rationally to reality:

The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hizballah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran. . . . It is not [the Saudi crown prince] Mohammed bin Salman . . . who is bringing danger to Lebanon; it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars; it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hizballah, abandoning any [supposed] national role in order to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.

What the Saudis are doing is saying: enough—let’s start describing Lebanese reality instead of burying it. Let’s stop financing a situation that allows Hizballah to feed off the Lebanese state, dominate that state, and use it as a launching pad for terror and aggression in the Middle East, all on Iran’s behalf.

There is of course no guarantee that this approach will succeed: the Lebanese may be too terrified of Hizballah. And success will require action by the United States and its allies, particularly France. If all of Lebanon’s friends took the same approach, demanding that Hizballah’s grip on the country and the state be limited, we might embolden Lebanon’s citizens and its politicians to protest Hizballah’s chokehold. Economic assistance to Lebanon and military assistance to its army should be made dependent on their pushing back against Hizballah and regaining Lebanese independence. The price Lebanon pays for Hizballah should be made far clearer, and the advantages Hizballah gains from its control of Lebanon should be reduced—and made far more controversial.

Are these outrageous demands? On the contrary, they are in fact required by UN Security Council resolution 1701, adopted in August 2006 to end the war between Hizballah and Israel.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Second Lebanon War, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen