If the claim from Riyadh that Lebanon had declared war on Saudi Arabia “wasn’t so bizarre and grotesque, it would be funny,” Peter Ford, former British ambassador to Syria, told Sputnik Radio’s Loud & Clear Tuesday.
There have been purges of Saudi officials from top positions, detention of princes at the five-star Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and mysterious deaths of high-ranking Saudi officials, to name just a few of the huge stories to come out of the oil-rich country in recent days. The way the young Saudi crown prince is acting is best described as “manic and unhinged, and obviously very dangerous,” Ford said.
“I’m one of many Saudi watchers in Washington,” Loud & Clear host John Kiriakou said. “I’ve been following Saudi Arabia for 28 years now, first at the Central Intelligence Agency, later at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I can honestly tell you, I have never seen anything like this coming out of Saudi Arabia.”
Ford agreed: “Saudi Arabia is certainly acting out of character right now.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, via his massive consolidation of power, “has all the reins of power in his inexperienced hands.”
“This inexperience is showing through in the field of foreign affairs as well as domestic,” according to Ford. Riyadh has continued a bloody — and by many accounts futile — war in Yemen. The beef Riyadh started with Qatar, which Ford also pinned on the new crown prince, “achieves nothing.” And now, the crown prince is seeking greater confrontation with Iran. Ford suggested that since the Saudis “lost out” in Syria and Iraq, Riyadh may be looking for a new battlefield, “namely Lebanon — but in this too, I think they will be disappointed.”
On Monday, Saudi Arabian Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said Beirut would “be dealt with as declaring a war on Saudi Arabia,” over alleged aggression from Hezbollah, which is widely suspected of being supported by Iran’s Shiite government.
According to Kiriakou, one of the most contentious events of recent days was an alleged Houthi missile attack that was shot down over the Saudi capital. Riyadh and Washington both pin the blame for that on Iran for supposedly having supplied the missile.
However, the embattled Houthis don’t have the capability to launch a missile from Yemen at the Riyadh International airport, according to defense experts in Washington. Some analysts in Washington are saying “the Saudis launched this missile on themselves, intercepted it, and then, of course, blamed the Iranians,” Kiriakou explained.
Thus, combined with the political events in Lebanon — where now-ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is also a Saudi national, resigned over the weekend over allegedly imminent threats to his life from Hezbollah — Saudi Arabia may be looking to start a war in Lebanon to fight Iran and ask the US, and perhaps Israel, for support.