Saudia Arabia thread

This bodes well.

I’ve said for years that the Saudis are a weak reed to rely on in that region, and in fact, are probably far more responsible for sowing instability and doing generally Bad Things than most folks realize. Couple that with what is effectively a fake state, really a family fiefdom built on commerce and corruption, a long history of political-religious extremism, extreme wealth, and pretty much zero restraint, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Really, I’d rather deal with the Iranians most of the time.

I think there is hope for Iran because the people are pretty Westernized.

The problem is the religious leadership and their constant aggression towards Israel that prevents us from really coming together.

I read a long article around 12 years ago and a State Dept dude was quoted as saying the #1 thing the US could ever do to damage radical Islam’s ability to operate as terror groups would be to cut off the money flow from the Sauds.

The Crown Prince has promised all kinds of reforms, like turning the state oil company into a modern corporation and building new industries to diversify the economy. Basically he wants to do all the stuff they should have started doing back in the 1960s. The way the economy works now, the princes get to siphon off most of the revenue, so they’ll fight tooth and nail to uphold the status quo.

Zeroing in on that CNN story, I thought a few points were weird. Maybe you guys can straighten me out?

  • The ballistic missile was intercepted and brought down by a Patriot missile. Hey, that’s good, no one likes their airports bombed. Is that common, though, for a neighboring nation to shoot a ground-to-ground missile at another nation? I guess I would have to leave out the many cruise missiles or drone-launched missiles the US lobbed at Iraq and Afghanistan (and Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc., etc.), as well as the ground to air missiles launched by Russian tourist-soldiers that took out that passenger airliner over Ukraine. And short range rockets between Palestine and Israel. It feels vanishingly rare.

  • Serious question though: When was the last time a Patriot hit anything? I remember hearing about them “saving Israel” in the Gulf War as Hussein launched ineffective/intercepted SCUD missiles at Tel Aviv. And not long after the war, there was talk about how the Patriots really didn’t intercept many at all. Have they been in active use for the 25+ years since the Gulf War? I have heard glowing reports about our “Iron Dome” technology that helped cut down on rocket attacks in Gaza, but I thought that was different than the Patriot system. Smaller, faster, better (though maybe not suited for ballistic missiles?)

  • Saudi Arabia is helping the official Yemen side in the Yemeni civil war, and so the CNN article begins with Yemeni rebels striking at Riyadh. I don’t know much about the Yemeni civil war except it has caused a great famine and was where President Trump first sent servicemen to their deaths way back in January. I’m surprised that the Houthi rebels got their hands on what must be a sophisticated weapon of war. Wikipedia says that the Burkon (or Volcano) H-2 is a vehicle-launched missile with a range of 800-2,000 km (a Proclaimers’ range of 500 - 1,240 miles). With that kind of range, gosh wow, that reaches pretty much all of the Gulf states and a chunk of eastern Africa as well.

  • And the CNN article states that Yemen’s Defense Ministry is Houthi- (or rebel-)controlled. I didn’t catch that on my first readthrough. This led to more confusion with the quote from the “senior Yemeni air force official told CNN that the claim that Saudi Arabia intercepted the ballistic missile is false. ‘The Saudi regime cannot hide the heavy fires that was seen by thousands of Saudi nationals in the King Khalid Airport premises [instead of shrapnel harmlessly falling to the ground in uninhabited areas kind of by but nowhere the Riyadh airport] as result of the Yemeni missile,’ the official said.” Was this official officially Yemeni or officially a rebel? Lying about the effectiveness of the missile, or whether it was intercepted or not, would be more in the interest of the rebel than the nationalist, right? And I would think the rebels are doing well for themselves if they are controlling the defense ministry, right?

And this doesn’t even get into the Saudi Crown Prince’s coup, it’s just one portion of the mass of things on his plate. Perhaps the average subject would be more likely to get behind him if the neighbor’s civil war has spilled into their kingdom. I am not suggesting that the Yemeni allying with the Saudis launched that missile at their Saudi friends just to do the Crown Prince a solid, though. It’s just…weird. What can one rebel missile do to a kingdom even if it hit its target at the airport? Are the rebels trying to do actual strategic damage against the leader of the coalition supporting the official if beleaguered government, or using asymmetric warfare to (best case) freak everyone out?

The Patriots were actually highly effective in the Gulf War. There was a story pushed just afterwards that they weren’t, but it was mostly a scam by attention-seeking nutjob Ted Postol. (He’s gone on to claim increasingly crazy tin-foil hat stuff like Syria never used chemical weapons.) Those early Patriots did have some limitations in intercepting ballistic missiles because they were originally designed to shoot down airplanes. The later models of Patriot missiles used today are designed specifically to shoot down ballistic missiles with the lessons of the Gulf War in mind.

When the civil war broke out, most of the military of Yemen sided with the Houthis. They had lots of Scud missiles and they’ve been getting support from Iran since then. Maybe not whole missiles, but enough components for them to be assembled in Yemen?

This is typical whenever someone fires off a missile and can’t see if it hit or not. They always claim success.

There may be a link between what’s happening in Saudi Arabia right now, or maybe it’s just that Saudi airstrikes killed a lot of civilians and the Yemenis feel a need to retaliate. It’s hard to keep track when there’s been so many people killed over the years.

This is something not to lose sight of. The Saudis have been pretty brutal in their intervention in Yemen, using (US supplied, usually) weapons to rather indiscriminately blast whatever they feel like. Usually to little strategic effect.

Yeah, their leaders need to put a sock in it, though I will say we often haven’t helped, because every time it seems there’s a chance to rebuild some dialogue we tend to undercut ourselves. Then again, the hardliners in Tehran realize that constant crises may well be the only thing keeping them in power.

They do threaten Israel, at least verbally, pretty often, but I think the Israelis make a bit too big a deal out of it sometimes, as the current leadership in Israel also depends on having a boogieman like Iran around. The Israelis and Iranians have dealt with each other before, clandestinely, and much of the actual strife between them involves competition for influence in places like southern Lebanon, rather than existential threats.

The Saudis, though, are fully capable of funding and supporting whackjobs who would do something truly atrocious. The Iranians generally fund Shiite militias and the like.

This … can’t be good?

I’m going to go fill up my tank on the way home from work.

Never thought I’d see Mr. Fogle dethroned as Worst Jared in my lifetime.

Well, I guess we’re all in on the new regime now. Personally, I’m not at all concerned by Trump’s eagerness to back leaders consolidating their power through mass arrests.

The Saudis keep making noises about Lebanon and Reuters at least keeps acting like it’s a big deal. I don’t get it. They have no cards to play there. All their attempts at building up Sunni militias there have been failures. The Christians hate them. I can’t think of any plausible way their military is a threat to Lebanon.

My best guess is that they’re trying to manipulate the Trump administration into seeing them as the victims of Iran/Hezbollah. But it’s hard to tell because in that part of the world they really are playing 3-dimensional chess and thinking many moves ahead. And it’s possible that Saudi Arabia right now is being run by a guy who is trying to play 3-dimensional chess but is really bad at it.

Saudi Arabia is nothing more than a corporate kleptocracy masquerading as a nation. Working from that, it’s pretty much predictable what they’ll try and do.

I’m confused; the Saudi military dwarfs the Lebanese military, or do you mean in terms of being a legitimate threat at overthrowing them? If that’s the case, then yeah - I just don’t see that happening.

They don’t share a border, though. How would the Saudi military even get to Lebanon?

Depends what their goal is. If it’s just to cause damage, they don’t need to bother with land forces; cruise missiles and maybe air strikes through the air of their buddy, Jordan, and either Lebanon’s routine combatant Israel or the currently embroiled Syria.

Invasion and overthrow? Yeah, not too possible without it being a wider conflict.

Flying through Syria would mean going past the Russian air defenses there. Flying through Israel to attack fellow Arabs would be extremely unpopular. Maybe they could go over Egypt if they used aerial refueling, but would Egypt want to get involved?

So I don’t think it can be ruled out, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Just as importantly, what the hell is there in Lebanon to attack? I mean, after decades of civil war, unrest, and random incursions by Israel, there doesn’t seem to be much anyone would want to or need to whack with a cruise missile.