John Bolton: ‘There’s No Doubt Who Is on Top in Saudi Arabia Now’ But It’s Not over Yet

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow and special co-host Stephen K. Bannon on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily to look at this weekend’s momentous events in Saudi Arabia.

“There are a lot of moving parts to it, but clearly this represents another consolidation of power by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman,” Bolton said. “It caps about a year of activity, and I’m not sure it’s over yet.”

“The only caution I would have is that the forces he has now pushed out of the center of power in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think have given up yet. He has said he wants moderate Islam to prevail in Saudi Arabia. He clearly is very concerned about the threat of Iran. He’s got the other Gulf Arabs with him, with the exception of Qatar, as you mentioned,” Bolton told Bannon.

“I don’t think we should be forgetting our history and remember what happened to the Shah of Iran when he pushed too quickly to modernize there. We got the Ayatollah Khomenei. I just think that while there’s no doubt who is on top in Saudi Arabia now, I don’t think this is over with yet,” he said.

Bannon asked if the weekend arrests, particularly that of high-profile business magnate Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were part of an effort to cut off the flow of money to extremists in Europe and the United States.

“It’s certainly possible,” Bolton replied. “There are a number of people who were arrested over the weekend. I’m not familiar with some. It’s possible they’re involved in it. But also, this is the kind of thing, these dramatic steps, that could well finally provoke the Wahabis to do something about it rather than see their power eroded entirely.”

“That’s why I think we have to watch this very carefully, because to me it certainly is the case that while Qatar has funded the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, and others, there are a lot of sources of terrorist financing coming out of all of the Arab states,” he explained. “That’s why I thought President Trump was right in his first visit to Saudi to pull the Arabs together, and the Muslim world more broadly, and say: ‘We’ve got to clean this up, and in particular, you’ve got to clean it up on your side.’ Because the threats that they face, from Iran in particular, continue to grow.”

“You also saw over the weekend the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is a Sunni Muslim backed by the Saudis, who expressed fears that Hezbollah would assassinate him as his father Rafik Hariri was assassinated – certainly at the direction of Syria, maybe of Iran, in 2005,” he noted. “So there’s a lot going on in the region. It’s something we need to follow very carefully because of our interests.”

Bolton worried that a “real Middle East strategy” has not yet been put together by the State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Council.

“Look, that missile that was fired out of Yemen almost certainly was fired by the Houthi, who are surrogates for Iran,” he noted, referring to the weekend missile attack on Saudi Arabia. “They’re not going to get missiles from anywhere else, other than the Iranians – which, by the way, have also given similar missiles or even more sophisticated ones to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

“Iran has had a grand strategy,” he warned. “As ISIS is defeated, in the Trump administration we saw following the Obama strategy of using the government of Iraq’s military forces and Shia militia, which we helped arm and train, but which were under the direction of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. When Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, fell some weeks back the militia and the Iraqi forces turned immediately against the Kurds.”

“So you’ve got a Kurdish front in the north, you’ve got this arc of control the Iranians are establishing through Iraq and Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. You’ve got the Houthi rebels and others in Yemen. They’re looking at trying to establish Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, meaning control over all that oil, as well as continuing their nuclear weapons program, and we’re responding in an ad hoc fashion,” said Bolton.

Bolton agreed with Bannon’s diagnosis that the Middle East could be spinning dangerously out of control.

“Trump inherited this from Obama over the course of his administration,” Bolton pointed out. “His tilt toward Iran, his tilt away from Israel, his tilt away from the Arab states have helped the entire region, right across North Africa and the Middle East all the way to Pakistan really, start descending into anarchy and chaos. Libya doesn’t exist as a functioning state. Boko Haram has ripped up the seam between Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa.”

“We’ve talked about the Middle East, you’ve correctly raised Turkey, where I think President Erdogan is just eliminating the post-World War I secular constitution of Kemal Ataturk, and I think waiting for the hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Ottoman Empire’s caliphate to declare a new one. I mean, it really is as dangerous as it’s been in a long, long time,” he concluded.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and head of his own political action committee, BoltonPAC.

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