"KSA has been responsible for creating the worst humanitarian disaster of the 21st century,” he said, in reference to Saudi military campaign against Yemen.
It came after the Yemeni army targeted Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid international airport in Riyadh with a long distance Borkan H2 ballistic missile.
Mr. Turbeville was asked to comment on the recent developments surrounding Saudi Arabia, including the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Saudi-led war with Yemen, the kingdon's anti-corruption move, and Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas's trip to Riyadh.
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
MP: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia, blaming Iran of meddling in the region. What’s your take on this? What’s the significance of his announcing resignation while in Saudi Arabia?
Brandon Turbeville: The significance is readily apparent since it seems that Saudi Arabia was behind the resignation to begin with. It is, after all, atypical for a sitting Prime Minister to resign in another country rather than do so at home. It appears to be an attempt on the part of Saudi Arabia to sow seeds of discord and destabilization in Lebanon after the defeat of terrorists inside Lebanon and the growth of Hezbollah and Iran’s influence in the government and the country as a whole. There is no question that Iran is spreading its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah. But for Saudi Arabia to criticize Iran for such "meddling” while it maintains influence over the Prime Minister is hypocrisy to say the least. Particularly when Hezbollah has fought against ISIS and other Western-backed terrorists in both Lebanon and Syria while KSA has funded and directed them. Not to mention that Hezbollah’s primary focus is defense of Lebanon against Israeli aggression.
MP: Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said the circumstances of the announcement indicated that Saudi Arabia was behind the move. How do you view the situation?
Brandon Turbeville: I think he’s on the right track. As I said earlier, the attempt here is what we would call a "Hail Mary” by Saudi Arabia. KSA and the United States have watched their proxy terrorists driven out of Lebanon and they are watching them be defeated in Syria. As a result, Nasrallah and Hezbollah’s popularity and influence in Lebanon have actually gotten stronger. Outside of some major action such as a color revolution or military assault, Hezbollah is not going anywhere. So it seems the Saudis have persuaded Hariri to resign in order to throw a monkey wrench into the works of the Lebanese government. It effectively stalls Lebanon’s ability to govern and thus, the Saudis seem to believe, puts pressure on Hezbollah. The plan is to gum up the works and destabilize Lebanon by chaos or inaction or both. It could also have the effect of bringing Hezbollah troops back into Lebanon and out of the Syrian battlefield in order to stabilize the situation in Lebanon.
Ultimately, we will discover what is truly behind this resignation, retroactively, since we will have to observe Saudi behavior over the course of the next few weeks and months to determine how much of a hand they played in this.
MP: A ballistic missile fired from Yemen came close to the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday. Riyadh blamed Iran for the incident, while Iran dismissed allegations that it provided missiles to Houthi fighters in Yemen. How do you analyze this?
Brandon Turbeville: Saudi Arabia has no one to blame for the missile in Riyadh but itself. KSA helped put in place a puppet President and then launched a war to rescue him. KSA has been responsible for creating the worst humanitarian disaster of the 21st century. Iran didn’t fire the missile. While it’s relatively clear to everyone that Iran is somehow supporting the Houthis in the defense of their country, there has been no actual evidence of this. And, again, it is important to remember that the Iranians only provided this alleged (and it can only be alleged at this point) support after the Saudis invaded and began bombing civilians. The Saudis are reaping the harvest of the seeds they sowed. It’s no one’s fault but their own.
MP: A number of prominent Saudi princes, government ministers, and businesspeople were arrested in Saudi Arabia following the creation of an anti-corruption committee, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. How would the arrests transform the "Game of Thrones” in Saudi Arabia?
Brandon Turbeville: This is perhaps the most mysterious question. Is MBS truly trying to reform? Is he merely trying to consolidate power? Is he actually fighting back against a coup being launched against him? There are a lot of mysteries surrounding his recent actions at this point. There are two telling aspects to this purge that should have some attention drawn to them, however. The first is that, despite the minor reforms and the signal that MBS is moving away from coddling extremism, there have been no signs that the war in Yemen is abating. In fact, anti-Iran rhetoric has even intensified over the last 48 hours. There is also the question of the involvement in the Hariri resignation and how that would negatively affect Hezbollah and Iran.
And the reforms need to be examined also. While backing away from extremism is undoubtedly a welcome sign as is greater rights for women and religious minorities, it also involves the privatization of many government holdings and services that suggest KSA will actually just be implementing an unworkable form of neo-liberal privatization. This brings us to the second aspect that needs to be watched – the fact that the U.S. is openly calling for KSA to float part of Aramco in the stock exchange and thus privatize around ten percent of it. If these are part of the reforms, KSA is in for a rough ride economically. It also signals that KSA is working with the West since these are precisely the reforms demanded by Western imperialists and financier organizations like the IMF. If that is the case, then we may be seeing a consolidation of power on the part of MBS and an attempt to solidify power and support for his rule going forward which may be a bit rocky for Saudis.
It is possible that there were elements trying to unseat MBS ahead of his formal ascension to the throne, given his new deals with Russia and China and moving away from the U.S. but, at this point, it seems less likely that such a shift would be the case.
At this point, we will have to wait and see KSA’s posture in the coming weeks to make an accurate analysis of just what is taking place.
MP: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Monday in a surprise visit, to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Could you comment on this?
Brandon Turbeville: It’s hard to gauge in terms of specifics but I would wager this also has to do with the recent announcement of greater cooperation between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. Remember, the three recently announced a united front, an alliance that is undoubtedly concerning to Saudi Arabia since KSA has provided much support to Hamas and is obviously concerned about the influence it has wielded with the organization fading in favor of more active and honest partners in Iran and Hezbollah.