Poor Lebanon! The French endowed it with a Jerry-built constitution, which requires its President to be a Maronite Christian, its Prime Minister to be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of the Parliament to be Shia, and so on. The result is a fragile nation, with a system of governance run by very clever people who somehow make it work, most of the time. It is full of contradictions but it survives because nobody tries to break it, since the consequences would be a worse mess for all concerned.
Until now, that is. Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon is a Saudi citizen. Don’t ask me how that is possible. It has its own military force which we have supported over the years in a Quixotic attempt to give it the capability of defending Lebanon against external threats. That capability however rests mainly with Hezbollah, an indigenous Lebanese movement, which developed capabilities of its own fighting Israel a while back. Hezbollah emerged out of the downtrodden Shia population, mainly in south Lebanon, and recently has helped out Assad across the border in Syria, saving his bacon.
Hariri fled to Saudi Arabia and resigned, creating the present mess. If he feared for his life his fears were jusrtified; his papa, who was PM before him, was assassinated. The latest crisis apparently results from a historic coup in Saudi Arabia when a brash young Prince, Moh’d Bin Salmen, grabbed levers of power there, that had been reserved for others, and took over. His instincts for power-grabbing appear sounder than his judgement in guiding Saudi Arabia’s relations with its neighbors—in that departmenlt he has been a disaster. He runs around turning over applecarts, like Trump, who likes Salmen.
Both Trump and bin Salmen hate the Iranians and Hezbollah. The Saudis are fighting a needless war in Yemen and blame Iran, while Trump is fighting whoever happens to get in his way—and also blaming Iran. The whole affair is turning rancid with religious inputs, with Sunni Arabia and Hariri’s faction in Lebanon and us in the background versus Iran, Hezbollah, and anyone else who belongs to the Shia side of Islam, more or less.
Yes, Trump has us lined up with that arch-exemplar of conservative Islam, Saudi Arabia, against one of the most modern nations in the region, Iran. Hariri’s resignation makes a bad situation worse. Any idiot out there could touch off a pretty major war, with us on the wrong side as usual. And it may not be one of their idiots that touches it off, we have one of our own lurching around the deck in the mistaken conviction that he knows what he’s doing.
Update, as of 11/9, late am:
The situation is evolving fast. MbS has chosen to declare a Yemeni missile shot down on its way to Riyadh was tantamount to a declaration of war, and Israel has openly sided with the Saudis and us. Meanwhile, at an obscure watering hole on the Euphrates Russian backed forces of Assad’s army have squashed the last remnants of ISIS, beating out some US backed forces trying to get there first. Nobody knows what will happen when the two armies face off.
Once again, it seems it will be up to the wicked Russians to avert a pretty big war. Wish them well, folks.