Obama Admin. Ignored Saudi Pleas to Combat Takeover of Lebanon

He urged that Washington support a covert program of arming the moderates, telling Feltman: “We must help [March 14 leaders] Saad (Hariri), Walid (Jumblatt), and even (Samir) Geagea with money and arms." While some Christian and Druze militias trained, they lacked arms. They were in no way as strong as the immensely equipped Hizballah. There is no real trained and equipped Sunni Muslim armed force at all. Apparently, the U.S. government did nothing.

A little over a year later, Hizballah defied the government’s demand to shut down its fiber optic network that some Lebanese leaders claimed was being used to spy on the government and others. In response, Hizballah mobilized its military forces, briefly seized half of Beirut -- an easy task since there were few organized Sunni Muslim, pro-government defenders -- and attacked the Druze-inhabited Shouf region with artillery and armed units. The martial Druze stopped the advance.

In the middle of this heavy fighting between often ill-equipped pro-March 14 forces and Hizballah, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal discussed the Saudis' preferred solution to the situation with U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield. According to the report, Faisal stated:

The effort by “Hizballah and Iran” to take over Beirut was the first step in a process that would lead to the overthrow of the … government and an “Iranian takeover of all Lebanon.”

Faisal wanted an Arab force that would work with UNIFIL, which according to Satterfield “is sitting doing nothing.” NATO and the United States would provide the Arab force with air and naval power. Faisal suggested this would be an "easier battle to win" than fighting Iraqi insurgents or Palestinian Hamas, both groups that the Saudis also saw as enemies of themselves and America.

Satterfield had his doubts about the feasibility of such a plan, and at any rate the U.S. government again did nothing. Faisal’s warnings proved precisely correct. By a mixture of intimidation, bribery, and electoral success that offered some debt to the first two methods, Hizballah toppled the government, placed a friendly prime minister in power, and continued to arm itself with ever more advanced weapons.

The Saudi readiness to respond to Tehran’s moves in the region and willingness to use their money and even armed forces against Iran and its allies provided an example for U.S. policy. When an often quiescent Arab state known for preferring low-profile and checkbook diplomacy sounds the call to put up a fight and take risks because the danger is so tremendous, maybe it knows more than the Obama administration officials in Washington about what needs to be done.