Nature abhors a vacuum–so, it would seem, does international politics. With the collapse of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, a power struggle is emerging in the region between Iran and Saudi Arabia, though you wouldn’t know too much of that listening to much of the media.
Last Saturday, the Houti rebels in Yemen launched a ballistic missile at the Riyadh airport in Saudi Arabia–500 miles away. Fortunately for the Saudis, their military was able to intercept this missile. However, no one (as far as I’ve seen) has even posed the question as to where, or how, the Houti rebels obtained a missile like this. The Houtis, of course, are claiming that this is a home grown weapon; personally, that seems a little hard to believe. A more likely scenario is that Iran has been smuggling weapons to the Houti rebels–and has up-ed the ante here with the introduction of a missile of this caliber. (Which would also be a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions.) Clearly, the Saudis believe this as well, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman blamed the Iranians for this claiming that this was a “clear act of aggression” and could be considered an act of war. Earlier today, Fox News indicated that fragments of the missile bore markings indicating an Iranian origin.
In Lebanon, Iranian backed Hezbollah continues to stir the pot. However, instead of targeting their favorite nemsis, Israel, they’ve essentially turned north, to Beirut. The Saudi-supported Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, resigned this week amidst fears of a Hezbollah assassination plot. In addition, both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have ordered all of their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately. Obviously, something is stirring in Lebanon.
Just a couple weeks ago, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region several times. Iran has been a strong supporter of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the leading factions amongst the Kurds, and even though Iran supports the PUK, they do not want to see an independent Kurdistan–and that’s precisely why Soleimani traveled to Kirkuk, to dissuade the Kurds from their independence goal. Ironically, part of the Iraqi army that would fight against the Kurdish independence movement is a large contingent of Iraqi Shiite Militias–which is also heavily supported by Soleimani and the Revolutionary Guards. For that matter, Iran’s military role in Iraq isn’t even much of a secret anymore.
Clearly, with the demise of ISIS, Iranian influence in the region is more and more apparent–and, apparently, more and more provocative.