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Saudi Interference in Lebanon Is Backfiring

Reuters reports [1] that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is not being allowed to leave Saudi Arabia following his “resignation” in Riyadh:

Lebanon believes Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Saturday while in Saudi Arabia, is being held by Riyadh, and Beirut plans to work with foreign states to secure his return, a top Lebanese government official said on Thursday.

A second source, a senior politician close to Saudi-allied Hariri, said Saudi Arabia had ordered him to resign and put him under house arrest. A third source familiar with the situation said Saudi Arabia was controlling and limiting his movement.

Like other Saudi power plays in the region, this one already seems to have failed. Just as the attempt to force Qatar to downgrade its relationship with Iran produced the opposite result, the apparent effort to put more pressure on Hezbollah isn’t having the desired effect inside Lebanon. Instead, the Saudis have managed to unite most Lebanese against their interference. Aurelie Daher analyzes [2] the strange resignation and its consequences:

One thing is certain. The Saudi initiative was part of a larger plan to send a strong message to both Saudi and regional audiences: Hariri’s resignation, the arrest of dozens of princes and ministers, and the blockade on Yemen were coordinated to give the world a clear image of Saudi Arabia’s new posture.

In Lebanon however, things are already backfiring. The Saudi move had an unexpected result. Whereas Sunnis and Shias in Lebanon have seemed for the last 10 years incapable of sharing common ground on regional alliances, the “kidnapping” of their prime minister at the hands of his own Saudi boss managed to infuriate Hariri’s own community [bold mine-DL]. On Sunday, Hariri’s party even praised Hassan Nasrallah, calling him a “responsible man” who placed above all the country’s “national interest,” a first in more than 10 years.

The danger in all this is that the Saudis are looking for a pretext to ignite a new conflict, and they are trying to destabilize Lebanon to that end. It is with good reason that Paul Pillar dubbed [3] Saudi Arabia the “wellspring of regional instability” yesterday, since this is what they have been in recent years:

The apparent Saudi intention is to stir the Lebanese pot in a way that somehow would be disadvantageous to Hezbollah, which is a partner in the governing Lebanese coalition. But all the move has done so far is to make Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah look honest and perceptive in noting the Saudi role in the move, and to make him look reasonable in being the one who wants stability in coalition politics in Lebanon rather than seeking crisis and confrontation.

Each time that Salman and MBS have tried to counter Iranian influence, real or imagined, they have managed to do harm to almost everyone except Iran. Contra Trump, they have no idea what they’re doing, and in the process they are stoking tensions and creating instability throughout the region.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Saudi Interference in Lebanon Is Backfiring"

#1 Comment By Procivic On November 9, 2017 @ 10:51 am

It’s time the U.S., UK and France — countrirs responsible for arming the Saudi regime to a dangerous level — revisited their policies toward the powder keg that the so-called “crown prince” is in the process of igniting.

#2 Comment By law of recoil On November 9, 2017 @ 11:18 am

The Saudi reputation for fairly prudent leadership by a caste of tribal elders is now completely shot. This incompetent, impulsive punk managed to do it in just a couple of years.

It doesn’t yet seem to have dawned on him that these violent, impulsive actions are likely to have grim consequences for him personally.

Ah well, live and learn, eh? At least for the time being …

#3 Comment By John Mann On November 9, 2017 @ 12:11 pm

Interesting account of what happened from Robert Fisk:

[4]

#4 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On November 9, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

Looks like this august weirdo has just inadvertently united Lebanon.

#5 Comment By Joe F On November 9, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

This is truly brazen and clearly he checked with Trump on this, as evidenced by Jared’s unannounced visit and Trump’s dopey tweet on the Aramco IPO. It reeks of some sort of quid pro quo, only Donald is too stupid to keep his mouth shut. Something in it for Jared, too. He is desperate for cash on 666 Fifth Ave

#6 Comment By b. On November 9, 2017 @ 2:53 pm

“Each time that Salman and MBS have tried to counter Iranian influence, real or imagined, they have managed to do harm to almost everyone except Iran.”

Is is fair to say that MbS is Saudi Arabia’s GWB then?

When the Democrats are done with their hysteria laps regarding “The Russians!”, maybe they want to investigate themselves and the neocon/GOP foreign ‘stablishment next. These guys must all be unregistered Iranian agents, no other explanation makes sense.

#7 Comment By b. On November 9, 2017 @ 3:12 pm

Thanks for the link to the Fisk article. This caught my eye:

“… the house arrest of 11 princes – including the immensely wealthy Alwaleed bin Talal – and … the freezing of up to 1,700 bank accounts … especially when the kingdom owes Hariri’s “Oger” company as much as $9bn, for such is the commonly rumoured state of affairs in what we now call ‘cash-strapped Saudi Arabia'”

Is there any chance that the timing (if not the scope of the coup itself) is motivated by cash flow concerns? Is MbS broke, or is the King’s purse empty now?

#8 Comment By Jay C On November 9, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

One would think that one country, in effect, extorting the resignation of the elected head-of-government of another country – and then holding said official under arrest might be a bit more newsworthy than it has. Outside of this blog (and a few others), the Saudis’ heavyhanded interference in Lebanon has scarcely made the news.

#9 Comment By without yer fez on On November 9, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

@Jay C : “One would think that one country, in effect, extorting the resignation of the elected head-of-government of another country – and then holding said official under arrest might be a bit more newsworthy than it has”

It’s not more newsworthy because too much of our legacy media is invested in MBS. They’re invested in him as a “modernizer”, and they’re even more heavily invested in him as a friend and ally of Israel.

Like Mubarak.

Like Sisi.

Like the Shah.