Saudi Arabia Isolates Itself

In the News International Relations News Reviews

The rulers of Saudi Arabia are a good example of the manifestation of an old Arabic proverb that says an ignorant person could do to themselves what their enemy could not do to them.

In yet another uncalculated move, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, who previously kidnapped the sitting prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, and ordered him to resign to collapse his government because of his failure to sideline Hezbollah, has now cut diplomatic relations with Lebanon and signaled to other Arab regimes to do the same. They used statements by the new Information Minister, George Kardahi, which he said before he took office, as an excuse for this extraordinary action. Kardahi, on a TV show, was asked about his personal opinion about the war in Yemen, which he described as “reckless or purposeless war that should stop.”

Some Lebanese politicians called on Kardahi to resign so that the country can restore its relations with a rich Gulf country. Here is why Kardahi’s resignation is unlikely to change anything in relations to Saudi Arabia’s posture towards Lebanon.

Kardahi asked, why would he resign or apologize for a personal opinion that he shares with many other people including some within the Kingdom. Moreover, Kardahi asked those who wished on him to resign: do you have any guarantees that with my resignation, you will be able to restore the relationship with Saudi Arabia and preserve the government? No one wanted to answer those questions because the answer came from the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia who said: our problem is not just with Kardahi; our problem is with the dominance of Hezbollah over Lebanon. In other words, unless the Lebanese government takes steps against Hezbollah similar to Saudi steps against Ansarullah in Yemen, meaning a war of eradication of the movement, Saudi Arabia will not normalize relations with Lebanon.

The problem with that proposition is that no Lebanese politician can form a stable government that excludes 34% of the Lebanese population (the minimum percentage of Shia population in Lebanon). In a country built on a delicate balance of sectarian and religious quotas, what Saudi Arabia wants is not practically possible in Lebanon short of full collapse of the country and revival of the 15 -year civil war.

Ironically, George Kardahi is not even a member of Hezbollah, in fact he is not Muslim. He was nominated by one of the Christian parties to serve in this government. Prior to that, he was a TV presenter and former host of the Arabic version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He started his career working for Saudi funded media outlets.

It would seem that almost all other Arab regimes, despite their authoritarian impulses and dependence of the wealth of the Gulf States, realize the absurdity of the Saudi demand and that is why none of them took any serious steps to appease the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Even members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who often fall inline behind Saudi Arabia, were split in their reaction to this event: Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait followed Saudi Arabia while Oman and Qatar called for calm.

Once again, the new rulers of Saudi Arabia who launched a war on Yemen more than 7 years ago–now about to losing it with the fall of the most important governorate in Yemen, Marib–has forced the Arab states to side with it on a cause that is untenable, further isolating itself and accelerating the degradation of its credibility.


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