Iran taking Saudi rhetoric, actions seriously

Al-Monitor | : The unprecedented and curious resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri while he was in the Saudi capital Riyadh has become the center of speculations regarding the possible impacts on the Iranian-Saudi struggle over influence in the region. It’s not a secret that the whole story is a piece of a bigger puzzle. Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s close Lebanese ally, headed a coalition government that has Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese partner, in it. This coalition came to life Dec. 18, 2016, and the process was seen then as an outcome to an unwritten agreement between the two main regional powers to keep Lebanon away from the region’s turmoil.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting proxy political and military wars in several areas around the Middle East. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has so far failed to defeat Iran’s allies, Ansar Allah, known also as the Houthis, despite 2½ years of daily bombing that has left thousands of people dead. Riyadh is backing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in his attempt to retake power, yet the main objectives of this effort were hurdled due to the differences among the coalition because of the fierce resistance Tehran’s allies are showing. On Nov. 4, the Houthis targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia’s capital with a ballistic missile. According to Saudi Ministry of Defense, the missile was intercepted.

This prompted Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to accuse Iran of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to the Houthis. “The involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” Mohammed said on Nov. 7. This came after Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhanthreatened that Lebanon’s government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he described as “acts of aggression” committed by Hezbollah. This wasn’t the first warning.

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