The recent bizarre episode of Lebanon's prime minister resigning while in Saudi Arabia and on Saudi TV sparked confusion around the world. But few may have realized how momentous and potentially dangerous the incident actually was. It turned out to be an impulsive power play by one of the Trump administration's most important allies in the Middle East. And it might have brought the region dangerously close to war had it not been for deft intervention by the United States and France. At a time when the U.S. seems to be in retreat from the world stage, with many vacant positions in American embassies in crucial countries - including Saudi Arabia - and big reductions in State Department staff, this episode brought into sharp focus the U.S.'s still-essential role as an international power broker. The diplomatic response to the incident also marked France's return to the international stage. "U.S. diplomats and decision-makers played the major role in pushing back against Saudi Arabia's impulsive move and identifying the pathway to defuse this crisis," said Randa Slim, director of conflict resolution at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. It all started when Saudi Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman decided to simply bench his Lebanese ally, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whom the prince saw as too mellow in the face of Iranian influence in the region, and replace him with his older brother, Bahaa, according to multiple sources. President Donald Trump’s recent praise of Hariri for his efforts in the fight against ISIS plus fears that his resignation could spark a devastating war between Lebanon, specifically Hezbollah, and Israel – two matters of fundamental importance to the U.S. in the region – didn’t seem to shield Hariri from the crown prince’s new plans in the region. Prince Mohamad was intent on rolling back Iranian interference in a more robust and direct way, and Lebanon was his arena du jour. Thus began the high-stakes drama that played out over two weeks and which revealed both the governing style of the man expected to rule Saudi Arabia for the coming decades and the pitfalls of leaving the two competing regional powers in the Middle East -- Iran and