According to WMR’s sources in Lebanon and France, Saudi Arabia has further inflamed tensions in the Middle East by requesting from its ally, Egypt, permission for Saudi warplanes to overfly Egyptian territory to bomb Lebanon. The de facto new Saudi regime led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) considers Saudi Arabia to be in a state of war with Lebanon.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was called to Riyadh from Lebanon and was forced to read a resignation statement on Saudi television. WMR and other media outlets have reported that Hariri is being held against his will in Riyadh, news that prompted a hasty unscheduled visit to the Saudi capital by French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron was expected to ask MBS to allow Hariri to travel to France, where the ex-prime minister has a home. Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, has stated that he will not recognize Hariri’s resignation until he has a chance to meet him face-to-face in Beirut. In an ambiguously-phrased statement, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “As far as we know, yes. We think he [Hariri] is free of his movements and it’s important he makes his own choices.”
The International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union, China, and the Arab League supported Aoun’s call for Hariri’s immediate return to Lebanon. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, is a dual Lebanese-Saudi national. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, traveling with Donald Trump in Asia, parroted denials from Saudi Arabia’s chief liar and propagandist Adel al-Jubeir that Hariri is not being held hostage in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait have warned their citizens not to travel to Lebanon.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he opposes any Saudi war with Lebanon and the Shi’a-led Lebanese Hezbollah, which is represented in the rump government formerly headed by Hariri. However, some observers dismiss El-Sisi’s remarks about a Saudi-Lebanese war and point to the fact that he has strongly backed MBS’s coup in Saudi Arabia. El-Sisi said of MBS, “I have confidence in the kingdom’s leadership” and called the situation in Saudi Arabia an “internal issue.”
A Saudi request for overflight of Egyptian territory to launch air attacks on Lebanon would specifically require both Egyptian and Israeli approval for the nearest air corridor—one over the Sinai Peninsula—to be used. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty established a series of demilitarized zones in Sinai that may only be breached with the approval of Cairo and Jerusalem. Saudi overflight of Jordan would entail flying over Syria or Israel. Syria would view any Saudi use of Syrian airspace for an attack on Lebanon as an act of war and Saudi planes would be easy prey for Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria. Saudi overflight of Israeli airspace to hit an Arab country like Lebanon would inflame Arabs and Muslims around the world and likely lead to MBS’s ouster and execution for apostasy by rival Saudi princes.
A Saudi attack on Lebanon using Egyptian Sinai airspace would probably originate from King Faisal Airbase, co-located with Tabuk Regional Airport, the headquarters of Royal Saudi Air Force Wing 7 and home of the “Saudi Hawks” aerobatic display team. The airbase is home to Saudi advanced F-15s and F-16s, as well as E-3A AWACS aircraft that would be used for command, control, and communications for a Saudi attack on Lebanon. A U.S. Air Force cyber-warfare “training unit” is believed to be assigned to the airbase. Israeli Air Force planes have also been sighted at the base delivering military equipment as part of a secret Saudi-Israeli agreement that allows King Faisal Airbase to be used by Israel as a forward support base for an Israeli air attack on Iran. During Israeli flight operations at the airport, civilian flights are canceled and stranded passengers are accommodated, at Saudi government expense, at four-star hotels in Tabuk.
It is ironic that King Faisal Air Base is being used as a hub for Israeli-backed military operations by the Saudis. King Faisal was shot in the face and killed in 1975 by a half-nephew who had just returned from a visit to the United States. Faisal, out of all the Saudi kings, was the most pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. King Faisal was known to present as gifts to official visitors to the kingdom, which included U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, beautifully-bound and gold-embossed copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).