French President Emmanuel Macron held hastily scheduled talks in Riyadh on Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, notably over Lebanon and Yemen.
Macron, who flew in from a visit to the United Arab Emirates, had earlier declined to discuss a wave of high-level arrests for corruption in Saudi Arabia, but said it was vital to work with the kingdom for the stability of the region.
The first face-to-face talks between the two men focused on regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon, and “ensuring the preservation of stability in the region”, the French presidency said in a statement after the meeting.
Two top Lebanese government officials said on Thursday that Riyadh was holding Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri captive and a third told Reuters that the Saudi authorities had ordered Hariri to resign while he was in Riyadh last weekend, and put him under house arrest.
Saudi Arabia has denied that he is under house arrest, but Hariri himself has not denied that his movements are being restricted.
France has close ties with Lebanon, a former colony, and with Hariri, who has a home in France after spending several years in the country. Macron said at an earlier news conference in Dubai there had been informal contacts with Hariri, but no request to transfer him to France.
“They discussed the situation in Lebanon following the resignation of Prime Minister Hariri,” the French presidency said. “President Macron reiterated the importance France attaches to Lebanon’s stability, security, sovereignty and integrity.”
The statement made no mention on whether Macron had spoken with or seen Hariri while in Riyadh.
In recent years, France has been able to nurture new links with the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states due to its tough stance on Iran in nuclear negotiations, and the broad similarity of their policies on conflicts across the Middle East.
However, the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince has emphasized closer ties with U.S. President Donald Trump at a time when Macron has in turn sought to improve relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite rival for regional influence.
Macron has said he will travel to Iran in 2018, potentially becoming the first French president to travel there since 1971.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The level of coordination in this US-led axis leaves one with the stark conclusion that Trump is willingly pushing a war with Iran.
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.
Sixteen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria have drained $5.6 trillion from the United States economy, according to a new study entitled “Costs of War” released by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
The “Costs of War” report does not include spending on US military operations elsewhere in the world, including the escalating intervention in Chad, Niger and throughout the African continent, US participation in the genocidal Saudi-led war against Yemen, and special operations interventions on virtually every continent.
The cost of the wars dealt with in the report is over and above the annual Pentagon budget of nearly $700 billion—a level of military spending that outstrips the world’s next 10 largest military powers combined.
The trillions of dollars’ worth of destruction wrought by US wars that have decimated entire societies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen are not the subject of the Brown University report. It does, however, provide a sober view of the vast social wealth of the United States itself that has literally gone up in smoke as a result of American militarism—resources that could have been invested in education, health care and raising the living standards of the working class.
The $5.6 trillion figure given by the Brown study as the cost of US wars is almost exactly the equivalent of the US national debt in 2001, on the eve Washington’s launching of its “global war on terror.” In the intervening 16 years, that debt has more than quadrupled, attributable in no small part to the ever-growing cascade of military spending.
Trump has shown himself to be the type of man who cannot decide to serve only God or money.
On the one he is protecting The Lord's unborn children and defending christian rights, but on the other, he is pushing for war against the wrong governments and is making deals with the wrong people.
Ivan - He is President Trump, not Pastor Trump. He is not "pushing for war" with anyone, nor "making deals" with "wrong people" either. God raised President Trump up for such a time as this. On so many levels, President Trump is exposing so much corruption and evil that we already knew was there. He is Reaganestic, with his leadership on some issues...
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