An unprecedented wave of arrests have rocked the House of Saud since the ascension of American and Israeli-backed Crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), heir to throne of the oil-rich kingdom.
Scores of princes, religious leaders, political ministers and billionaire businessmen have been arrested under charges of corruption, most prominent being Al Walid bin Talal (worth $18,5 billion according to Forbes), Prince Nayyef, head of the National Guards and infamous arms dealer Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is targeting $800 billion in assets believed to be held in 1,700 frozen bank accounts. Every commercial contract with a Saudi prince is a corrupt deal, so the “anti-corruption” drive is simply a ploy to destroy his political and tribal opponents.
The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, was astonishingly held from the Arabian capital, Riyadh. This bizarre proclamation gives credence to suggestions that Hariri has been detained and was pressurised by the Saudis with the intention of destabilising Lebanon.
After having pulverised to smithereens the poorest Arab country Yemen, at a cost of between $100-500 million a day, the Saudis have failed to vanquish the resistance after three years of fighting. Instead, they have committed egregious war crimes, devastating the land and leaving twenty of its 28 million people near-starvation, killing more than 10,000 people.
The Saudis have coerced other members of the Gulf Coordinating Council (GCC) to isolate Qatar, apply economic sanctions, shut down Al Jazeera television and engineer a regime change.
The Saudis, having lost the war in Syria with its proxies being resoundingly defeated, have now taken the lead with its American and Israeli allies, to confront Hizbullah and Iran. And the missile attack on the Riyadh airport provided the pretext to generate a climate of tension.
The antipathy of the Saudis towards Hizbullah and Iran was clearly evident when they supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006 with the primary purpose of destroying Hizbullah. Millions of dollars were offered to Israel to destroy Hizbullah. And millions more to create a rift between sunni and shia communities.
Instead, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah secured a place in history as a legendary Middle Eastern strongman for inflicting the only defeat upon Israel that ended its occupation of southern Lebanon. Not since Egypt’s Gamal Abdel al-Nasser had any political leader enchanted Arab youth in the 1960s, captured as many hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims.
He became an Arab Che Guevara, personifying an Islamist resistance struggle. A poll by the Ibn Khaldun Centre, an Egyptian non-governmental organization, saw Nasrallah come top as the most popular figure in the Middle East, while a Lebanese poll found Hezbollah supported by 89% of the country’s Sunnis, despite being a Shiite organization.
Nasrallah differed from most Arab political leaders in that he is incorruptible, intellectual, fearless and grounded in Islam. In 1997, his son Hadi Nasrallah died in the battlefield in Southern Lebanon fighting against Israel, demonstrating his commitment to free Palestine, but also exposing the hypocrisy of most Arab leaders who would talk about sending people to sacrifice themselves, but rarely do they sending their own sons into battle.
The illegitimate Arab monarchies and despotic regimes, Israel and many Western nations found common cause to confront Hizbullah, the Palestinian resistance movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and their primary supporter, Iran.
The stunning victory of Hamas in a democratic election saw the Arab regimes support Israel’s strangulating siege on Gaza in an attempt to oust the legitimate Palestinian government. The Arab Uprising that overthrew of Egypt’s Husni Mubarak and was replaced by the Islamic Movements’ Muslim Brotherhood. This shocked the regional illegitimate, autocratic rulers.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Israel and the West engineered the coup against Mohammed Morsi and installed the military dictatorship General Abdel Fatah el Sisi. However, they have failed to institute a regime change in Syria, with Bashar Asad managing to hold onto power aided by Hizbullah, Iran and Russia.
The Saudi regime has spent millions of dollars to reverse the popularity of the resistance movements and demonise as “terrorists” the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbullah, often using the sectarian card to vilify Iran of having a “shia” agenda.
Journalist and analyst Abdel Bari Atwan wrote: “All that is currently happening is part of a well-studied and carefully planned scheme. It is the prelude to a sectarian war, conducted under an ‘Arab nationalist’ guise. And its main target is the rising ‘Shiite’ Iranian force, aiming at clipping its strike forces in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, with U.S., regional, and Israeli backing.”
Israel and Saudi Arabia have now forged common enemies, primarily Hizbullah and Iran. American president Donald Trump has decertified the Iranian nuclear deal signed by former US president Barack Obama. Is creating chaos in Lebanon the next step?
Will the rash, brash, ambitious and young Saudi MbS with massive financial clout goad the warmongers Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu into a conflagration against Hizbullah, Iran and Russia to ignite a destructive world war?
More chaos and bloodshed awaits the region.
Dr Firoz Osman is an executive member of the Media Review Network, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg.
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