November 6, 2017, Strategic Culture – Finian Cunningham
It’s been a more-than-usual eventful week in the Middle East. Russian-backed forces made yet more significant military gains in defeating US-sponsored proxies in Syria, with a fearsome display of long-range Russian air and naval firepower against militant hold-outs near Deir ez-Zor. That was while Russian President Vladimir Putin was greeted in the Iranian capital Tehran by Ayatollah Khamenei – a meeting that spoke volumes of the new reality of geopolitical authority in the region.
Then days later, the Saudi-backed Lebanese premier Saad Hariri makes a “surprise” resignation, which wasn’t really a surprise for those who are watching events closely. Hariri made his blustering speech while in the Saudi capital Riyadh, accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of “destabilizing” his country, and even plotting to assassinate him.
Iran denounced Hariri’s antics as “grandstanding” and kowtowing to a political agenda set by Washington and its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, aimed at smearing Iran and Hezbollah.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, who has fairly good relations with Iran and Hezbollah, was none too pleased either by his prime minister’s farewell announcement televised in the Saudi capital. Aoun reportedly said, rather drily, that he expected Hariri to return to Lebanon soon to explain his resignation while sojourning in a foreign country. The Lebanese president had also rejected claims of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of his country.
Meanwhile, at the same time as those shenanigans, the Saudi rulers launched a putsch against rivals within the kingdom under the cover of an “anti-corruption crackdown”. Dozens of Saudi princes, as well as current and former government ministers, were arrested or sacked in a move which further consolidates the power under King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Western media reports tended to gullibly portray the move at face value, suggesting a cleanup against corruption. Whereas, the reality is that the Saudi regime is concentrating its autocratic power by getting rid of perceived internal rivals. That move will only make the House of Saud even more insecure and precarious in its grip on absolute power.
What this all spells is the kind of scampering by scoundrels and enemies who know the end is nigh. A bit like shuffling the deckchairs as the Titanic is about to go down. It’s a desperate, but futile, bid to avoid the inevitable.
One inevitable reality is that Syria has been salvaged from the US-led axis and its criminal project to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The six-year covert war for regime change has been defeated, largely because of the principled intervention by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in support of the Syrian state.
When Putin visited Tehran last week it was obvious from the interaction with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Russia-Iran are the new dominant force in the Middle East. The US-led axis and its agenda of asserting control through sectarian conflict and chaos is decidedly on the wane. Syria represents a momentous defeat to the US-led axis, and by contrast a monumental vindication of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in stabilizing the strategically important region.
Outgoing Lebanese premier Saad Hariri is obviously making a desperate throw of the dice at the Last Chance Saloon. But it’s not his initiative. The pathetic Hariri – who has both Saudi and Lebanese nationality – is following orders from his political handlers in the US axis. By fingering Iran and Hezbollah for allegedly sowing discord, and accusing them of an assassination plot, Hariri is recklessly trying to throw his country back to the fate of potential civil war.
Forty-seven-year-old Saad Hariri, a billionaire businessman whose father Rafic was killed in a car bomb in 2005, is fanning sectarian tensions within Lebanon. His Saudi-funded Future Movement has routinely blamed Hezbollah for his father’s killing 12 years ago. It’s not clear who actually killed Rafic Hariri. Hezbollah has always denied any involvement. The shocking murder of Rafic Hariri could well have been a false-flag event carried out by the CIA and Mossad to smear Hezbollah, incite regional sectarianism and demonize Iran.
Saad Hariri’s dramatic – not to say contrived – resignation as Lebanese premier at the weekend seems to be an attempt at rekindling sectarian passions in Lebanon and is part of a wider gambit to shift the US-led agenda of destabilization in the region.
Having seen its nefarious scheme in Syria come apart, Washington and its regional clients are bidding to move to another theater.
The Trump administration’s disavowal last month of the international nuclear accord with Iran and Washington’s slapping of new bilateral sanctions on the flimsy basis of alleged Iranian terror sponsorship are all consistent with an attempt to open up a new theater of conflict.
Trump is also moving to impose new sanctions on Hezbollah on the basis of alleged terror plots against the US. Given that Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s coalition government, Washington’s sanctions will fuel social and political tensions within Lebanon.
Once again the small Mediterranean country is being exposed to the dangers of civil war in order to satisfy US, Saudi and Israeli geopolitical ambitions. The scars of Lebanon’s past civil war (1975-90) between religious factions are still raw. Hariri, and his US and Saudi handlers, are deliberately gouging at those wounds.
This is all because the same US-led axis cannot abide the fact that it has suffered an historic defeat in Syria at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army, with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
However, the attempt to shift the conflict elsewhere is not as smart a move as its orchestrators may think. For a start, the region and the world have become much better informed about the nefarious sectarian and terror-sponsoring agenda of Washington and its allies. Clients like Saad Hariri are seen for what they really are. Self-serving puppets who have not an iota of genuine concern for the well-being of their nations.
Not only has Washington become exposed as the fount of conflict in the Middle East, its client regimes have also become nakedly exposed. That would explain why the House of Saud is hastily trying to barricade itself against potential dissent from within. Their days are numbered, and they know it.
Danger is always present, of course. But Russia is entitled nevertheless to take pride of place in being acclaimed for restoring stability and peace across the Middle East.
Russia and its allies in Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are powering ahead to forge a region that will serve first and foremost the interests of its peoples, rather than serving the foreign elite interests of Washington and its client regimes.