The tension in the Middle East is growing greater and all signs point to imminent war.
According to The Daily Star, Saudi Arabia has accused Lebanon and Iran of committing an act of war and plans to respond. Saudi Arabia launched F-15 fighter jets to conduct a military operation against Lebanon’s Iranian-backed military force, Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is both a political party and militant group based in Lebanon. This organization, designated a terrorist group by the United States, receives funding and support from Iran. They hold a significant amount of power and influence in Lebanon, which is considered a major threat to Saudi Arabia.
According to Public Radio International, the conflict has been a back-and-forth struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for decades as both countries seek greater power and influence in the region. The two Islamic nations continue to clash over religious differences.
In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia financed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein when he waged war against Iran. Once Iraq was reduced in stature and influence after the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia and Iran became “the two main regional powers,” according to Clement Therme, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The most recent scuffle started in 2016 when the two nations severed diplomatic ties after the execution of a notable Shiite cleric sparked the sacking of a Saudi Arabia embassy by Iranians. Tensions between the two nations continued to grow following the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Saudi Arabia saw as Iran’s first step toward becoming a greater regional power.
As diplomatic ties fell apart, tempers ran hot as Saudi Arabia cut off ties with Qatar citing a perceived support of Iran, which Qatar has continually denied.
Things recently took a turn for the worse when the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, made an announcement from the capital of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He claimed it was out of fear over the “grip” Iran had over Lebanon through the Shiite militia movement Hezbollah.
Mere hours after the announcement, Saudi Arabia claimed they intercepted a missile launched from Yemen directed at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Yemen is the current location of fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite rebels backed by Iran.
Saudi Arabia was infuriated by the attack. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of “direct military aggression” paramount to an act of war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied the missile attack and said they were prepared to counter any action Saudi Arabia might take.
Some believe that this diplomatic falling out and rising tension is directly related to the fall of ISIS, which has been a common enemy for the two nations. Iran and Saudi Arabia had joined forces to combat the rising threat of ISIS terrorism, but with ISIS’ significant losses of both territory and power in recent months, there exists a power vacuum that both nations seek to fill.
Fearing that Hezbollah is being employed by Iran to seize complete control of Lebanon to bring another nation into the anti-Saudi fold, the Crown Prince seems to be targeting Hezbollah as an entity before it completes its takeover of power.
Saudi Arabia is preparing to attack Lebanon. Should the US be concerned?
The announcement of fighter jets set to engage Hezbollah forces could put the fragile stability of Lebanon into chaos again. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged Iran to withdraw support from Hezbollah, and called upon both nations to reach a peaceful resolution to avoid disrupting the stability within Lebanon.
Hopefully, the two nations can resolve their differences soon and the region can return to peace. The last thing anyone wants to see is the Middle East devolving into their old ways immediately after the threat of ISIS is removed.