SHAFAQNA – A new report published in The Independent this Thursday read: “Saudi Arabia turns on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of largesse.”
Indeed … over the past few days, and too many commentators, politicians and observers’ surprise, the kingdom has turned on Lebanon, opting for open threats and belligerence to revenge a political upset.
But what is truly ailing Riyadh … what had officials in Riyadh so outraged that they chose to so publicly smite Lebanon?
Here is how Robert Fisk summarizes the situation: “After pouring billions into rebuilding the country following successive Israeli invasions and air raids, the Saudis find that they cannot prevent the Shia from expressing their fury at Riyadh.”
Faced with the Resistance of Hezbollah, and the rising popularity of its movement, Riyadh has grown increasingly restless – fearful it will soon lose complete control of the Levant to individuals whose loyalty is to their country, and not their financial advancement.
Of course, the religious dimension of this latent conflict in between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia cannot be under-estimated. Standing against the tyranny and intolerance of Wahhabism Hezbollah has offered its religious paradigm: Shia Islam. But not only that … Hezbollah is also home to Lebanese Christians.
Where Saudi Arabia has always strived on sectarianism, and division, Hezbollah has instead presented a cross-sectarian united front, answering intolerance, with inclusion for the sake of national unity.
To cut down the movement back to size Saudi Arabia hsa used the only weapon left at its disposal: slander and political manipulation.
After repeatedly promising to spend £3.2bn on new French weapons for the well-trained but hopelessly under-armed Lebanese army, Saudi Arabia has suddenly declined to fund the project – which was eagerly supported by the US and, for greedier reasons, by Paris. Along with other Gulf states, Riyadh has told its citizens not to visit Lebanon or – if they are already there – to leave. Saudi Airlines is supposedly going to halt all flights to Beirut. Lebanon, according to the Saudis, is a centre of “terror”.
Of course Lebanon is NOT a centre of terror – this is the political manipulation. This is the narrative Saudi Arabia is looking to weave, to better deflect away from its own terrorism, and its own guilt; while at the same time preparing for the further demonization of an enemy it can no longer control.
Saudi Arabia it appears has overextended itself – from its adventure in Yemen, to its attempt to spread Wahhabism across Europe and Asia through networks of schools and religious institutions, and of course its funding of Western friendships, could it be the kingdom is running out of breath …and money.
For all their wealth, al-Saud royals lack political vision and flexibility – they have failed in their arrogance to realise that loyalties can never be bought if they are to last. They need instead to be given through cooperation, and collaboration.
Lebanon will most likely become another proxy in this grand re-organization of the Middle East.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna