Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, in opening remarks to the Arab League today, declared that the kingdom “will not hesitate to defend its national security to keep its people safe” while requesting that joint action be taken to stop Iranian "aggression" and attacks on Arab states.
Last weekend Saudi Arabia called an emergency session of the Arab League to address what it labeled "Iranian interference" after the bizarre series of events related to MBS' aggressive internal purge, which included the detention of Lebanese ex-PM Hariri, left the kingdom in an unprecedented state of strife and uncertainty.
The destabilizing events were precipitated by a November 4 attack claimed by Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, which the Saudis called a "violation" committed by Iran, though Iran denied that it had anything to do with the rare ballistic missile launch out of Yemen.
Arab foreign ministers from member states met at League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday and in predictable fashion blasted Iran and Hezbollah for sowing instability and discord within Arab countries, citing Iranian "aggression" and expanding influence. The meeting is only the 12th such emergency summit to be held since the Arab League's founding in 1945 - a fact which hints at Saudi Arabia's increased desperation to confront Hezbollah while also shifting blame from its own self-made crisis at home.
The extraordinary session was also urged by close allies among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait - all of which also backed the Saudi diplomatic and economic war against Qatar which erupted early last summer. Among the many Saudi charges against Qatar is included supposed Iranian infiltration of the tiny oil-rich nation.
According to Bloomberg, Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a press conference carried on al-Arabiya that a resolution referred to Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization". Furthermore, he said that though the Arab league won’t declare war against Iran at the moment, the resolution is a clear condemnation of Iranian interference in the region.
Much of Sunday's meeting focused on Lebanon, with Bahrain's foreign minister announcing that the country has come under the "total control" of Iran-backed Hezbollah. "The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation... is under the total control of this terrorist party," said Bahraini FM Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, in reference to Hezbollah
As many astute pundits have pointed out, it's now "blame Iran time" according to the official Saudi (and allies) narrative of events in order to set the stage for public support for potential military action against Iran. Though it's unlikely that the Gulf states would take direct military action against Hezbollah and Iran, there could be efforts underway to give political backing for an Israeli incursion into Lebanon.
Meanwhile the Lebanese are increasingly aware that their country has fallen in the cross hairs of an unusual alliance between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and anti-Iranian interests which see Hezbollah and pro-Iranian proxies as the number one threat and scapegoat for all of the region's problems.
It may not come immediately, but there could be war on the horizon as Saudi Arabia and its regional allies grow increasingly desperate for "action" against Iran and Hezbollah.
At the emergency meeting of the Arab foreign ministers under the auspices of the Arab League on Sunday, Iran and Hezbollah were condemned in the harshest terms. The meeting comes amid unprecedented tensions in the region between Saudi Arabia and Iran — and as the war against Islamic State wraps up in Syria and Iraq. Here are five key takeaways from the meeting in Cairo:
The meeting was important because of the condemnation of Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organization.
The condemnation of Hezbollah stops short of any kind of declaration of war on Iran. However it comes just 41 years after the deployment Arab Deterrent Force in Lebanon on the eve of the Civil War in that country. Now concerns of a new conflict force the League to walk more softly and not fuel the crisis too much.
On Thursday November 16, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot gave an interview with Saudi-owned news sit Elaph. “We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran,” he said according to reports. The numerous high level discussions about Saudi Arabia paint a picture of increasingly close policy alignment.
The main takeaway from the meeting in Cairo is it cements the Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE ties that have been clear since the Qatar crises in July.
The increasing discussions about Saudi Arabia and Israel leading the charge against Iran paint an important picture of the post-ISIS Middle East. Iran, Turkey and Russia are meanwhile preparing a major trilateral meeting in Sochi. The US is oddly quiet on the whole crisis, while France, which has historical interests in Lebanon, is stepping up to the plate.
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