Summing up the recent events in the Middle East leads to the conclusion that the threat of a Saudi-Iranian war is looking increasingly credible as tensions rise in the Middle East. There are visible signs that the region is heading into an out and out conflict, waged simultaneously in different places and involving many actors.
Fears of an imminent conflict in Lebanon rose on Nov.9 as Gulf Arab states followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in calling on their citizens to immediately exit Lebanon, whose former prime minister had resigned, citing an assassination plot against him as the reason. He blamed Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for sowing strife, destruction and ruin wherever it went in the Arab world. Having flown to Saudi Arabia, he accused Tehran of being driven by a “deep hatred for the Arab nation.”
The resignation not only brought down the coalition government and plunged Lebanon into a new political crisis but also thrust the country into the frontline of regional competition between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran. The minister is a Sunni in Lebanon’s sectarian system and his stepping down risks exacerbating sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shi‘ite Muslims.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz blaming Tehran over the ballistic missile fired at Riyadh by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Saudi air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired November 4 from the areas under rebels’ control. The missile was destroyed near King Khalid international airport on Riyadh’s northern outskirts. Supplying rebels in Yemen with missiles was a “direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the prince said on Nov.7. The Saudis say that retaliation will follow, while the Houthis threatened to continue attacks against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its closest ally.
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