Iran has responded furiously to what it called “reckless” Saudi threats after the latter accused Iran of “an act of war” in carrying out a long-range ballistic strike near the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Iran categorically denied any involvement in the missile attack at the weekend, which reports say was mounted by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.
However, the Saudi rulers were quick to accuse Iran of supplying the Houthi militants with the ballistic weapon and thereby carrying out an act of war on Saudi Arabia. No evidence was presented in support of the Saudi claims.
Nevertheless, the Saudi position was immediately backed up by US President Donald Trump who, while on a tour of Asia, asserted: “Iran just took a shot at Saudi Arabia.”
This automatic concurrence of views between Trump and the Saudi rulers suggests a level of concerted thinking by Washington and Riyadh, with the aim of incriminating Iran.
In other words, Saudi Arabia’s provocative accusations against Iran – which could serve as a pretext for a military escalation – are not just isolated bluster from Riyadh.
The alarming thing is that the Trump administration has been coordinating its hostile rhetoric towards Iran for several months now, along with Saudi Arabia and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. All three allies have been using virtually the same talking-points, making hollow accusations against Iran of sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East region.
Trump’s threat to tear up the international nuclear accord with Iran and the reimposition of economic sanctions is also part of what appears to be an agenda of stoking a confrontation with the Islamic Republic. Before its 1979 revolution, Iran was a loyal client regime of the US. Washington, it seems, has never gotten over the loss of its Persian vassal state.
So, when the Saudi rulers accuse Iran of “an act of war” over the missile strike at the weekend, that suggests another step being taken in furthering a concerted agenda worked out by the US, Israel and the Saudis for setting up a conflict.
All of this has to be put in a much bigger regional context in which there has been a dramatic shift in geopolitical power. Russia, Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have emerged as new dominant political forces in the strategically vital Middle East.
The defeat of the US-led axis, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, in the proxy war in Syria is a momentous setback. The newly established dominance of Russia and Iran is anathema to the US and its regional clients.
This why the US and its client regimes are seeking to sow conflict elsewhere in the region and towards Iran in particular. It’s a nefarious consolation prize for having their regime-change plans spectacularly upended in Syria by Russia and Iran.
When Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was summoned to Saudi Arabia at the weekend to tender his resignation, it was obviously a ploy to smear Iran and its ally Hezbollah. Hariri claimed in a Saudi television broadcast that he was running for his life to escape an assassination plot hatched by Iran and Hezbollah.
The sensationalist claims made by Hariri were dismissed by Iran as ridiculous. Even Lebanese President Michel Aoun treated the claims with derision, saying that he expects Hariri to return to Beirut immediately and explain his “surprise” resignation while standing in his own country, not from a TV studio in some foreign capital.
But the point is that the Saudi-Hariri publicity stunt appears to be yet another step in a concerted agenda to destabilize the region and provoke a confrontation with Iran.
Amid the turmoil over the past week, the Saudi royal family has embarked on a major purge of potential rivals within the kingdom. The purge is purportedly an “anti-corruption” crackdown. But it’s clear from the list of senior royals being arrested and detained that King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), are making an ambitious power grab to consolidate their autocratic rule.
MbS, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, has emerged as a vitriolic enemy of Iran, promising earlier this year that he would “take the battle to Iranian territory”. Saudi rulers and their Wahhabi fundamentalist version of Islam have always viewed Shia Iran as an apostate nation. But MbS has taken this traditional sectarian hostility to a higher level. And with Trump’s dubious blessing.
It is evident that the Saudi rulers are working hand-in-hand with the Trump administration and the Israeli leadership to deeply poison relations with Iran.
Trump’s first overseas visit as president was to Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel, during which he singled out and denigrated Iran as the region’s “number one” villain.
While dozens of Saudi royals, including government ministers, were being arrested over the weekend, Trump reportedly gave his tacit endorsement in a phone call with King Salman and the Crown Prince, according to the New York Times.
The NY Times also reported that only days before the crackdown, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner was in Saudi Arabia where he met with the rulers. There seems little doubt therefore that Trump was fully briefed on the forthcoming “night of the long knives” and that he gave a nod of approval.
What this points to is that the Trump administration is indulging the Saudi power grab as a quid quo pro in firming up the anti-Iran axis of Washington-Riyadh-Tel Aviv.
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has long been urging a pre-emptive military strike against Iran. The previous US administration under Barack Obama rebuffed that belligerence, pursuing diplomacy instead with Iran, which resulted in the international nuclear deal that was signed in July 2015, along with Russia, China and the European Union.
Now, sinisterly, there is a wholly different and dangerous triumvirate in place – in the form of Trump, an ambitious young Saudi prince, and Netanyahu – all espousing overt hostility towards Iran.
The level of coordination in this US-led axis leaves one with the stark conclusion that Trump is willingly pushing a war with Iran.
It is just one more illustration of how destructive and nihilistic US foreign policy is in the Middle East.
Wars, deaths, violence, sectarian hatred never seem to satisfy Washington’s bloodlust.
But in taking on Iran, American intrigue may meet its final downfall. Especially too because the people of the region are increasingly becoming aware of how malicious American power operates.
Along with Iran, Russia has been vindicated as a power whose foreign policy is one of seeking genuine partnership and stability. A US-led war against Iran will be seen as a last desperate act of a decrepit American empire.