Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

Is MBS now looking for war? If so will it be against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against Qatar?

Rumours of Saudi military strike against Iran’s Middle East allies Hezbollah and Qatar sweep the Middle East

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

4,395 Views

Reports from the Middle East that an extraordinary Arab League Summit is being convened at the instigation of Saudi Arabia, supposedly to discuss “Iranian interference” in the region, come alongside growing rumours that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s volatile de facto ruler, is planning a military strike against those in the Middle East whom he can come to see as Iran’s allies: Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Gulf state of Qatar, which is currently under Saudi blockade.

Such a military strike would be in character with the wilful behaviour Muhammad bin Salman has been exhibiting since he burst on the Middle East’s political scene following the accession of his father King Salman in January 2015.

Muhammad bin Salman is believed to have played the decisive role in the disastrous decision by Saudi Arabia to invade neighbouring Yemen in March 2015, and he is also widely and almost certainly credited with being the person who was behind the Saudi decision earlier this year to impose the blockade on Qatar.

With reports of Saudi F-15 fighters flying over Saudi bases, most speculation centref on a possible Saudi air strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon as a follow-up to the Saudi enforced ‘resignation’ of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

A Saudi air strike on Hezbollah however faces an obvious obstacle.  The most direct line for Saudi F-15s to launch a strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon would be across Iraq and Syria.

Iraq – which is becoming increasingly aligned with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – would presumably refuse the Saudis permission to send their F-15 fighters through its air space for such a purpose, and Syria undoubtedly would.

Muhammad bin Salman might be reckless enough to send his F-15s across Iraqi and Syrian air space regardless, trusting in the fact that the Iraqi and Syrian air forces and air defence systems are unlikely to be able to intercept them.

However it would be a gamble, especially in the case of Syria which does operate advanced anti aircraft missile systems independently of the Russians, and which might be actually capable of shooting Saudi Arabia’s F-15s down.

The alternative would be to launch the air strike from bases in Turkey, Jordan or Egypt.

However Turkey – currently on bad terms with Saudi Arabia after siding with Qatar in the quarrel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia – would probably not agree, whilst an air strike from Jordan would have to overfly Israel which would need Israeli permission, something which despite the de facto alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia might still be controversial with Islamist feeling in Saudi Arabia,

That leaves Egypt as the only obvious choice for a Saudi air strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Whilst that is possible, and the planned Arab League summit meeting in Cairo might be intended to provide cover for it, it would mean Saudi F-15s would have to cover a considerable distance over the Mediterranean sea to reach Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.

That is a type of operation the Saudi air force has never done before and of which it has no experience.

Moreover the Saudis would have to consider that their F-15s would be continuously tracked en route from Egypt to Lebanon by the Russians, who have advanced radars in Syria and with their Mediterranean fleet that would enable to do this.

Whilst the Russians would be extremely unlikely to shoot the Saudi F-15s down, they might give Hezbollah a tip-off, which would give Hezbollah time to prepare.

Assuming that the Saudi F-15s did finally get to Lebanon it is not clear what they would achieve there.

Lebanon is a country which is being almost continuously bombed by the Israeli air force, an air force immeasurably more powerful than that of the Saudis.

Nearly all this Israeli bombing targets Hezbollah, which has therefore long since learnt to prepare itself for bombing.  As it happens Israel’s bombing has never injured Hezbollah to any significant degree, and an intensive month long Israeli bombing campaign against Hezbollah in 2006 actually left the movement stronger.

It is impossible to see what damage the Saudi air force could realistically hope to do to Hezbollah which the far more powerful Israeli air force has not tried and failed to do previously, making the whole exercise look both expensive and pointless.

Whilst Muhammad bin Salman comes across as an impulsive and wilful individual, one must assume that there are people within the Saudi air force who are pointing this all out to him, and are advising him that an air strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon would be both extremely complicated and militarily pointless.

If Muhammad bin Salman really is intent on making trouble for Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon – as seems to be the case – then his obvious course is not through an over-complicated and militarily pointless air strike but through stirring up the profound sectarian differences that constantly beset  Lebanon.

Unfortunately because of the depth and extent of Lebanon’s sectarian divisions this is a policy which has a real prospect of success, and the current visit of Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch to Saudi Arabia – where he is supposed to meet with Saad Harari – suggests that this is precisely the route Muhammad bin Salman is taking.

After all doing so would be consistent with previous Saudi policy, which has always been to try to exploit sectarian differences to achieve political goals, as for example in the undeclared war Saudi Arabia has waged against President Assad of Syria.

Whilst with someone as volatile and unpredictable as Muhammad bin Salman it is never possible to be sure, my own view is that if he really is intent on war then the more obvious target is not Hezbollah in Lebanon but Qatar, which is a tiny country with a border with Saudi Arabia which is easy for Saudi Arabia to attack and which because of its small size in the event of a Saudi attack would be incapable of defending itself.

I discussed this possibility back in June when the Saudi blockade of Qatar was first imposed.  I pointed out then that the blockade of Qatar looked very much like it was intended to set the scene for an armed invasion

Whilst I do not know this for a fact, I think it is at least possible that Saudi Arabia’s breaking of diplomatic relations and the land and air blockade it imposed on Qatar were intended to be followed up by a ground invasion of Qatar.

Such an aggressive step would be very much in character for Saudi Arabia’s volatile de facto leader Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a follow-up article written shortly afterwards I discussed this possibility in more detail

…….there has to be a risk that rather than be humiliated by climbing down or having his ultimatum exposed as a bluff Prince Mohammed bin Salman might decide instead to double down further, and do what Saddam Hussein did in 1980, which is launch a ground invasion of a small but rich neighbouring Arab country which is daring to defy him.

After all like Saddam Hussein he already has form.  Just as before attacking Kuwait in 1990 Saddam Hussein had previously in 1981 attacked Iran, so in March 2015 – just weeks after his father became King – Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the prime instigator of the disastrous Saudi intervention in Yemen.

If Prince Mohammed bin Salman really does order an attack on Qatar then there is a serious danger that the situation could spiral out of control.

In the event the invasion which I feared in June never happened, either because it was never planned or because Muhammad bin Salman was talked of it by the other Saudi Princes or by the US, or because he was deterred by the strong statements Turkish President Erdogan made at the time which seemed to hint that in the event of a Saudi attack on Qatar Turkey would come to Qatar’s rescue.

I will here state my view – which is broadly the same as the Moon of Alabama’s – that it was internal criticism within Saudi Arabia following his failure in June to bring Qatar to heel which provoked Muhammad bin Salman into launching his purge.

Now however with talk of war in the Middle East growing, an article has appeared by Paul Cochrane on Consortium News which speculates that a Saudi invasion of Qatar may be on the cards again

Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Washington D.C.-based consultancy Gulf State Analytics, posits that Qatar could be brought under Saudi Arabia’s umbrella by force to seize the country’s huge gas reserves, the third largest in the world.

Who knows, black swan events do occur, and the global powers would vocally oppose such a move but likely not exercise military intervention a la 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. troops based in Qatar would just stay in their base; the Trump administration has signalled it has sided with Riyadh, even though the State Department has been more nuanced towards Doha. As for the Turks and the Iranians, they would not want to be brought into a conflagration with Riyadh and the ATQ. That really would tear the MENA apart.

Ultimately, there’s not much to stop a Saudi gas grab. There’s not much desire internationally for yet another Middle Eastern military “adventure” following the debacles in Iraq and Libya, while nobody’s lifted a finger against Saudi Arabia for its war against Yemen. As long as Qatari gas exports remain uninterrupted, the global powers might readily accept a change of management.

The point in this article about the possibility of Saudi Arabia seizing Qatar’s huge gas reserves being a strong incentive to launch an invasion is an important one.

Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991 was largely caused by his urgent need for money to rebuild Iraq’s economy and shore up his regime following the massively costly Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Muhammad bin Salman, with his Homerically ambitious and hopelessly unrealistic Saudi Vision 2030 project to finance at a time when Saudi Arabia is short of funds because of the oil price fall, is potentially also someone on the lookout for money.  As I pointed out in my recent article discussing Muhammad bin Salman’s purge, the money he has seized from the Saudi princes and their followers he has rounded up is nowhere near enough.  The temptation to add to Saudi Arabia’s resources by seizing Qatar’s huge oil and gas wealth must therefore be very strong.

Whether a Saudi invasion of Qatar would be as risk-free as Paul Cochrane’s article suggests is however another matter.

The two strongest military powers in the region – Iran and Turkey – back Qatar.  It is not inconceivable that in the event of a Saudi invasion of Qatar they may feel they have no choice but to come to Qatar’s rescue.

If so that would bring the crisis in the Gulf to stratospheric levels, with the US caught in the middle in a war between two sets of US allies: Turkey and Qatar on the one side versus Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other Gulf states on the other.

The fact that the US has its single biggest Middle East military base in Qatar, that Iran would side with Turkey and Qatar in such a war, and that Qatar – as the country under attack – would have international law on its side, would make the problems the US would face in the event of such a crisis even worse.

Given all these risks one would assume that US diplomacy would be doing all in its power to warn Muhammad bin Salman against such a reckless venture.

Sadly, it seems US diplomacy in the Middle East is asleep at the wheel,  There is no sign of any diplomatic move by the US to get Muhammad bin Salman to restrain himself, which given the dysfunctional state of US policy in the wake of the Russiagate scandal is unsurprising.

The situation in the Middle East is extremely tense as the fallout from the Russian-Iranian victory in the Syrian war, the recent Iraqi victory over the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the emergence in Saudi Arabia of Muhammad bin Salman, transform the region.

We may have some anxious days ahead.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

Published

on

Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending