Right, so there is a purge in Saudi Arabia, with princes arrested for “corruption” (they’re surely corrupt, but in Saudi Arabia that’s like saying they drink water), but more importantly, the National Guard commander was arrested and replaced with the Crown Prince, and the navy commander was also replaced.

A new anti-corruption committee led by the Crown Prince will continue the purge.

This has shades of what’s been going on in China, where Xi Jinping is called the “Chairman of Everything,” because he’s in charge of every important committee. In Saudi Arabia, his counterpart is the Crown Prince.

Power is being consolidated. It is true that Saudi Arabia has unavoidable problems and larger challenges coming down the pike. The most important should be the price of oil, which can be expected to continue its relative decline over the next couple decades as electric cars and so on come online.

But they’ve also chosen many of their problems: The war in Yemen is a self-inflicted wound, as is the (related) confrontation with Iran.

The latter confrontation is barrelling ahead, and it is likely to be the next significant war, not North Korea. The resignation of Lebanese PM Saad Hariri (who lives part time in Saudi Arabia) is part of the clearing of decks for the next phase, which will be another attempt to take out Hezbollah.

We can expect the US to impose significant sanctions on Lebanon as part of this, justified by Lebanon supposedly being insufficiently democratic (it was Hariri’s job to make this plausible).

Lebanon not being Venezuela, this will likely not be sufficient and military action will be required.

Note that, in this effort, Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia can be expected to act in cooperation.

This can and may well easily escalate into an actual war with Iran. As in Iraq before, the Saudis will want the US to do the actual dirty work, and Trump is eager to do it.

Iran is increasingly a Russian ally, and, as for Hezbollah, they appear to expect Syria to support them in any war with Israel, which is not unreasonable: Without Hezbollah support, Syria would have lost its war. Additionally, the usual reason for not fighting Israel doesn’t particularly apply any more: Syria is a smoking ruin already, though I’m sure Israel will try to demolish the capital. However, one suspects it will be heavily defended by Russian air defenses, however.

The entire mess is a clusterfuck waiting to happen. Absolute stupidity: Israel would be better off leaving Hezbollah alone (they have a lot more missiles than last time and are even more battle hardened); Iran is not an existential threat to Saudi Arabia, and; the US would have to be crazy to start another major war in the Middle East or even become involved in another one as it has done in Yemen (which should be none of the US’s business).

A lot of countries are acting directly against their own self interest. The only thing Saudi Arabia should be concerned with right now is handling the end of oil, and the prestige they might gain from defeating Iran will not be sufficient to save them from the consequences of a complete economic meltdown.

So this entire mess is, again, worth keeping an eye on.

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