Obama Ignored Saudi Pleas to Combat Takeover of Lebanon
- Obama Admin. Ignored Saudi Pleas to Combat Takeover of Lebanon
Posted By Phillip Smyth On September 20, 2011
Once a key U.S. partner in the Middle East, the Saudis are unhappy with the
Obama administration, and thus the United States. They are angry that the
White House never consulted them about helping to bring down the Mubarak
regime in Egypt. But their greatest wrath is reserved for the U.S.
government's failure to oppose the Iranian regime's expansionism and
In one Wikileaks-leaked State Department document after another, Riyadh's
anger is apparent. The "traditionally confrontation-averse" Saudis - as a
phrase in one of the reports calls them - also make clear that the threat of
force as well as words is necessary to stop Iran. A recently released secret
2009 U.S. State Department memo written for General Petraeus discussed this
Saudi view of Iran and U.S. policy toward Iran at length:
The Saudis see a dangerous Shia power bent on destabilizing the region. .
They remain concerned that we might be prepared to accept an enhanced role
for Iran in the region in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program.
In other words, the Saudis thought the United States might sell them out.
The king correctly predicted that the Obama engagement policy toward Iran
The Saudis described Iran's power, the spread of its radical Shia Islamist
ideology pushing Shia minorities to revolt in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and
its nuclear program as the main threats to Saudi Arabia. Israel and the
Palestinian issue didn't make the list. In a meeting with U.S. Air Force Lt.
General Mike Hostage, Saudi Air Force General Faisal al-Saud "asserted that
he had conclusive proof of Iranian involvement in the Houthi insurgency" in
In the spring of 2011, Saudi forces arrived in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth
Fleet is based, to quash a mainly Shia uprising - in part backed by Iran -
against the ruling Sunni minority. Additionally, the Saudis didn't stand
idly by as pro-Iranian Houthis (whose slogan is: "God is greatest, death to
America, death to Israel, God curse the Jews, victory for Islam") in
neighboring Yemen attacked Saudi forces in 2009. In private, the Saudis were
vocal in calling for Israel to strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
Faisal al-Saud offered a parable to show the Saudis' critical view of U.S.
policy toward Iran:
A neighbor's house bursts into flame, and the closest neighbor [the United
States] says he will come to help soon but then doesn't, citing policy as
preventing him, but hoping he will still be considered a very good friend.
Meanwhile, others who are not close friends are helping.
In Lebanon, the government was ruled by the pro-Western, pro-Saudi March 14
alliance. That Sunni Muslims, Christian, and Druze coalition was a bulwark
against the heavily armed, pro-Iranian Hizballah, and to Iranian and Syrian
influence. The Saudis early on appreciated the danger of a takeover by
radical forces and the need to do something about it. In 2007, Saudi
Ambassador to Lebanon Abdulaziz Khoja told then-U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey
Feltman that he doubted "whether the GOL [Government of Lebanon] and the
March 14 forces had the strength to sustain the fight over the long term"
without significant outside help.
He urged that Washington support a covert program of arming the moderates,
telling Feltman: "We must help [March 14 leaders] Saad (Hariri), Walid
(Jumblatt), and even (Samir) Geagea with money and arms." While some
Christian and Druze militias trained, they lacked arms. They were in no way
as strong as the immensely equipped Hizballah. There is no real trained and
equipped Sunni Muslim armed force at all. Apparently, the U.S. government
A little over a year later, Hizballah defied the government's demand to shut
down its fiber optic network that some Lebanese leaders claimed was being
used to spy on the government and others. In response, Hizballah mobilized
its military forces, briefly seized half of Beirut - an easy task since
there were few organized Sunni Muslim, pro-government defenders - and
attacked the Druze-inhabited Shouf region with artillery and armed units.
The martial Druze stopped the advance.
In the middle of this heavy fighting between often ill-equipped pro-March 14
forces and Hizballah, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal discussed
the Saudis' preferred solution to the situation with U.S. Ambassador David
Satterfield. According to the report, Faisal stated:
The effort by "Hizballah and Iran" to take over Beirut was the first step in
a process that would lead to the overthrow of the . government and an
"Iranian takeover of all Lebanon."
Faisal wanted an Arab force that would work with UNIFIL, which according to
Satterfield "is sitting doing nothing." NATO and the United States would
provide the Arab force with air and naval power. Faisal suggested this would
be an "easier battle to win" than fighting Iraqi insurgents or Palestinian
Hamas, both groups that the Saudis also saw as enemies of themselves and
Satterfield had his doubts about the feasibility of such a plan, and at any
rate the U.S. government again did nothing. Faisal's warnings proved
precisely correct. By a mixture of intimidation, bribery, and electoral
success that offered some debt to the first two methods, Hizballah toppled
the government, placed a friendly prime minister in power, and continued to
arm itself with ever more advanced weapons.
The Saudi readiness to respond to Tehran's moves in the region and
willingness to use their money and even armed forces against Iran and its
allies provided an example for U.S. policy. When an often quiescent Arab
state known for preferring low-profile and checkbook diplomacy sounds the
call to put up a fight and take risks because the danger is so tremendous,
maybe it knows more than the Obama administration officials in Washington
about what needs to be done.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
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