Vastavam web: Despite President Donald Trump’s full-throated support for Saudi Arabia, the United States appears to be signaling a desire for Riyadh to take a more cautious approach in its regional power struggle with Iran, experts say.Trump has cultivated much warmer ties with the Saudis after a fraught relationship with the Obama administration – the president made Riyadh his first stop on his maiden international trip – and has vowed to take strong action to confront Iran. Nevertheless, Washington, which has U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, is telegraphing a more tempered stance toward the confrontation in a region beset with turmoil.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear he still recognized as Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who unexpectedly announced his resignation on Nov. 4 from Riyadh.In announcing his decision on television, Hariri said he feared assassination and accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world, thrusting Lebanon into the front line of the competition between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran.In a statement on Saturday, the White House said it “rejects any efforts by militias within Lebanon or by any foreign forces to threaten Lebanon’s stability…or use Lebanon as a base from which to threaten others in the region.”
When asked to comment on whether the United States was pushing for a more cautious Saudi response, both the White House and State Department referred to Saturday’s statement on Lebanon.Tillerson was also “signaling to the Israelis that now is not the time to go after Lebanon,” said Salem, referring to long-standing Israeli concerns about Hezbollah’s growing military prowess.
Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believed the Trump administration was still seeking to help the Saudis advance their interests against Iran without destabilizing the region.Tillerson’s statement also urged “all parties both within Lebanon and outside” to respect Lebanon’s independence and said there was no role for any foreign forces.
The United States regularly criticizes Iran and Hezbollah for their role in Lebanon. Tillerson’s backing of Hariri and the Lebanese government contrasted sharply with the approach taken by Saudi Arabia, which has lumped Lebanon with Hezbollah as parties hostile to it.