An Unlikely Bedfellow Delivers A Wake-Up Call To USBy Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS.org November 27, 2017
The confrontation stems from the Saudis' decision to intervene in Lebanon, whose Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a visit with his Saudi patrons. This may have been the result of Saudi pressure or a genuine desire to rid Lebanon of the Hezbollah terrorist movement that dominates the country. Either way, the Saudis have a point.
Thanks to President Barack Obama's withdrawal from Iraq, Iran's allies now control that country. The success of Iranian, Hezbollah and Russia forces in winning the Syrian Civil War for the Bashar al-Assad regime has ensured the survival of Tehran's ally in Damascus and given it a seemingly permanent military presence there.
The Saudis aren't the only ones worried. Iran's presence in Syria and its renewed alliance with Hamas in Gaza give it the potential to launch a three-front war on Israel. That's why the Saudis are desperately trying to push the Americans, with Israel's tacit support, to take a tougher stance toward Russia in Syria and Lebanon before it is too late to do anything to restrain the Iranians.
Sorting out this foreign policy Rubik's Cube would be a difficult task for any president, but it is especially hard for an administration with a secretary of state who isn't trusted by the White House and is also distracted by the need to deal with North Korea's provocations.
The confrontation may be part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's purge of potential rivals, as he has begun to take the reins of power in Riyadh. Some, like former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, argue the Saudis are trying to drag Israel into doing their dirty work through an unnecessary war with Iran and its proxies.
But both the Saudis and the Israelis understand the U.S. must stop outsourcing Syrian policy to the Russians--the one example of Trump following rather than rejecting one of Obama's failed policies. The result is a disaster, as the Israelis learned when the U.S. recently signed off on a cease-fire that could put Iranian and Hezbollah forces close to the border with the Jewish state.
Americans have good reason to be skeptical of Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis are right to alert Trump to the need to get over his foolish notions about Russia and recommit the U.S. to holding the line against Iran. If Trump fails to listen to them, the price paid by the U.S. and its allies could be higher than he thinks.