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Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (2nd L) takes his seat to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and his delegation on April 19, 2017 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has become much more aggressive in the Middle East as the United States has pulled back from its traditional role in the region, according to Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, global geopolitical strategist at Standard Chartered bank.
“We’re seeing a series of miscalculations … We tend to think that Saudi Arabia has become an irrational actor in the Middle East,” Dauba-Pantanacce told CNBC Thursday.
His comments come as the Sunni Islamic kingdom’s foreign policy actions are increasingly forcing instability upon smaller nations, where analysts believe Saudi Arabia is seeking to amplify sectarian divisions. These moves have unfolded against the backdrop of escalating competition between Saudi Arabia and its Shia arch-rival Iran.
“I say this because every single foreign venture they (Saudi Arabia) try has reached the opposite result that they wanted. In Yemen, in Qatar, and now in Lebanon,” he said.
In the latest twist to come out of Middle East geopolitics, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Wednesday suspended his previous resignation, apparently in order to open “a new gateway for responsible dialogue,” he said in a statement. Whether this came with Saudi approval is not yet known.
The prime minister returned to Beirut Tuesday night following an unexpected two-week stay in Saudi Arabia, where he delivered a shock resignation from the capital Riyadh on November 4. This prompted widespread speculation that the prime minister was “held hostage,” as well as consensus among analysts that Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign.
“What Saudi Arabia is miscalculating is that in (holding) the PM of Lebanon probably against his will in the country, it has managed the feat of unifying all of Lebanon against Saudi, including the constituency of Lebanon that is traditionally sympathetic to Saudi,” the strategist explained.