Impact on Issues and Uncertainties
? Unity of Arab States, willingness and capability to support Saudi Arabia, willingness and capability to counter growing Iranian influence, (critical uncertainties)
➚ (➃ conflict in Yemen) Saudi perception of Iranian expansion and resulting threat
➙ ? Lebanon destabilisation
➚ ? Hezbollah influence in Lebanon
➚➚ Iran actualization of the Shia crescent to the Mediterranean Sea
➚ Iran influence
➚ ➃ Middle East Tension
➙ ? Russia influence
➙ ? U.S. influence
➙ ? France influence
➙➚ Threat to Israel
Lebanon (ex?)-Prime Minister Hariri’s flight then resignation from Saudi Arabia has created a host of rumours, as actors try to understand what happened really. Irrespectively of the truth, the Hariri crisis has also generated – or revealed – potential for escalating tensions, centred this time around Lebanon, but that could impact the whole Middle East.
For other as well as previous and related signals check the
The backdrop to the crisis is the redrawing of the influence map in the region as the political and geopolitical situation around Syria and Iraq change, moving from war to peace.
In a nutshell, we see a growing Iranian influence, Iran moving forward with the Shia crescent to the Mediterranean Sea, which is likely perceived as a threat by Saudi Arabia – and most probably Israel. The Saudi Kingdom’s threat perception can only be heightened by the latest explosion of a pipeline in Bahrain, and by a ballistic missile launched by the Iranian-supported Houthi in Yemen, which was destroyed close to Ryadh airport.
Iraq has moved under an Iranian sphere of influence, notably over the past month. If Russia notably would appear to guarantee a relatively future peaceful and non aggressive Syria, Iran will nonetheless have there a friendly future country. Thus, for those actors so inclined, Lebanon may be seen as the last place where to stop Iran’s ability to reach the Mediterranean Sea. There, under Saudi backed Prime Minister Hariri, the Shia Hezbollah had been able to increasingly participate in the Lebanese government. Hence one might conclude that the Saudis moved to derail Hezbollah and thus Iranian influence in Lebanon.
However, if such a move has taken place, it forgot to consider Lebanese wishes for peace and unity, and could actually, as a result, further increase the Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon, as long as Iran does not make any vocal declaration nor acts in a way that could be perceived as more threatening by Saudi Arabia.
The international community is multiplying calls to calm and responsible behaviour.
Even though rash moves towards war are always possible, it may be difficult for Saudi Arabia to further escalate much the situation, despite war rhetoric, considering notably the Yemenite military quagmire, hence the need for support from other Arab States and the call for an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League. Saudi – and Arab – trade and aid sanctions on Lebanon could be imagined, yet they could also backfire, lowering Saudi Arabia’s influence in Lebanon. A return to the situation ante in Lebanon, with a shared influence, could be the ideal outcome of the crisis for all actors, including Saudi Arabia. In such a case, Iran would have succeeded in increasing its influence and actualizing its corridor or crescent to the Mediterranean Sea, however it would be kept in check by other powers, considering notably the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia.
In any event, Israel reasserted quickly its willingness and independence in defending its territory, wherever the threat could come from, also most probably to make sure that the promises by various larger powers such as the U.S. and Russia would be kept.
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