One of the authors of the following is “Michael Bell…former Canadian ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and twice to Israel. Before the last federal election, he advised Justin Trudeau on foreign policy.” Remember that our new government intends to send some unspecified number of Canadian Forces’ personnel to Lebanon (and Jordan) on some so far very vague mission–see end of this post:
Saudi Arabia targets Hezbollah, and Lebanon will pay the price
At Saudi Arabian instigation, the Arab League, normally an ineffective Egyptian-dominated talk shop, has taken a sweeping step: It has labelled the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah a terrorist organization, following by days an identical decision by the Gulf Co-operation Council.
These events have nothing to do with moral concerns, but are rather a straight power play by the new, radically aggressive, and fearful, Saudi regime to use every possible means to destroy Iranian political and Shia religious influence throughout the Middle East, at whatever cost. In this case, the survival of Lebanon as a sovereign, if fragile, entity is at risk.
Saudi Arabia increasingly feels on the defensive: in the Yemeni civil war [latest here] in which it is a major protagonist fighting Iranian surrogates; in Syria, where Riyadh has recently joined the air war to undercut the increasingly ascendant Assad regime and its militarily critical Hezbollah allies; in Iraq, where Iranian-officered Shia militias play an essential role in support of the government in Baghdad, increasingly its surrogate.
In all of these conflicts the same dynamics are in play: ethno-nationalist struggle (the Iranians are Persian; the Saudis, Arab), religious conflict in Sunni-Shia sectarian strife and the geo-strategic struggle for dominance between the region’s two most significant powers.
The protagonists see the outcome as a zero-sum game. And now it is Lebanon’s turn to pay the price. The Saudis see Hezbollah, given its hand-in-glove alliance with Iran, as a major cause of Saudi travail.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base, the decades-long contest for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran appears to have turned sharply in Iran’s favour, to the extent that some analysts now refer to Lebanon as an Iranian satrap…
That Hezbollah appears to be at the cusp of securing the Lebanese presidency for its Christian ally – against the interests of Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies – seems to have been the final straw that has led to Saudi measures to get at Lebanon as a whole.
Riyadh has this month cut billions of dollars in aid to the Lebanese state, including its armed forces [French arms the Saudis were paying for], as well as effectively prohibiting private Saudi investment and tourism.
Other Arab states are likely to follow suit. Bahrain has begun the ejection of Shia Lebanese working there; if other Gulf states do the same, as seems inevitable, yet another underpinning of the Lebanese economy will be undermined.
All this could destroy Lebanon…
The Saudis can be expected to radicalize their Sunni co-religionists, further fragmenting the state and forcing an internal confrontation in which Hezbollah’s ability to involve itself decisively in Syria will be undercut. The last thing the region, and the world, needs is another failed state in the Middle East, one that borders Israel and Syria, hosts more than one million Syrian refugees and contains the same complex sectarian makeup as its war-torn neighbour…
As for Canada, from the prime minister’s February 8 “Backgrounder“:
Canada’s new approach to addressing the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria and impacts on the region: promoting security and stability
- Regional Capacity Building: subject to further discussion with regional partners, Canada will enhance its capacity-building efforts with security forces in Jordan and Lebanon to help prevent the spread of violent extremism…
Is the government clear about what it may be getting into?