Following a massive "power grab" over the weekend that resulted in the arrest of a prominent billionaire and dozens of influential political figures, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) appears to be steering his country to the brink of an all-out war with Iran and Lebanon—and, judging by his tweets late Monday, President Donald Trump is perfectly fine with it.
"MBS is hungry for war all over the region."
—Ryan Grim, The Intercept
"I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing," Trump wrote, offering an endorsement of the mass arrests—which came just a week after White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia to push for "peace."
....Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
Trump's tweeted endorsement of MBS's consolidation of power came as Saudi Arabia ramped up its aggressive rhetoric toward Iran, accusing its regional foe of supplying the missile fired from Yemen at a Riyadh airport on Saturday, which the Saudi leadership characterized as "an act of war against the kingdom."
Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the missile launch, and Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday that Saudi Arabia is "engaged in wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior, and risky provocations."
"Saudi has Trump exactly where they want him."
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American CouncilThe kingdom of Saudi Arabia "bombs Yemen to smithereens, killing 1000's of innocents including babies, spreads cholera and famine, but of course blames Iran," Zarif concluded.
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Saudi Arabia also escalated tensions with Lebanon on Monday, accusing the country—and the Shiite group Hezbollah in particular—of "declaring war against" the kingdom. This claim came shortly following the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, which Hezbollah said was a result of Saudi pressure.
As The Intercept's Ryan Grim argued in an email on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's bellicose rhetoric shows why "Saudi palace intrigue actually matters."
"MBS is hungry for war all over the region," Grim notes. If he completes his "power grab," Grim warms, "look out."
Trump, for his part, has not expressed any concern about Saudi Arabia's aggressive posture toward its rivals. Quite the opposite: by scrapping the Iran nuclear accord and continuing to deliver weapons and praise to the kingdom, Trump has made clear that he will unequivocally side with the Saudis if a regional conflict erupts.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, argued on Twitter Monday that Saudi Arabia's increasingly belligerent behavior is part of a broader effort to drag the U.S. into another war in the region, and "Trump seems eager to comply."
The Saudis "cannot balance Iran on their own, they need the U.S. to step in to the war. A conflict in Lebanon against Hezbollah can achieve that," Parsi concluded. "Trump just endorsed [the] Saudi crown prince's Putin-style purge and his destabilization of Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has Trump exactly where they want him."