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Resigning Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The Saudis weren’t surprised
Photo: Reuters
Smadar Perry
Hariri ‘assassination plot’ is just an excuse
Analysis: No one in Beirut believes the Lebanese prime minister resigned to avoid the fate of his slain father. The Saudis likely drafted his resignation speech in a bid to send Lebanon into a political tailspin that would weaken Hezbollah.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s resignation took everyone by surprise, apart from the Saudis.

 

 

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Gulf affairs minister tweeted that “the evil hands of Iran must be cut off” and promised “a dramatic development in the very near future.” Knowledgeable sources didn’t miss the pun, as the name of the largest party in the Lebanese parliament, which is led by Hariri, is Future Movement.

 

So the Saudis likely weren’t surprised, and it’s no coincidence that Hariri chose to issue his resignation from Riyadh. The Saudis are the resigning prime minister’s patrons. That’s where he was born 47 years ago and that’s where he took his first steps in the Oger construction company, which made him one of the wealthiest people in the world with a net worth of $2 billion.

 

From left to right: Saudi Crowne Prince Mohammad bin Salman, resigning Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri and Hezbillah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Hariri’s departure aimed at paving the way to an escalation in the Saudi-Iranian conflict (Photo: EPA, Getty Images, AFP)
From left to right: Saudi Crowne Prince Mohammad bin Salman, resigning Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri and Hezbillah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Hariri’s departure aimed at paving the way to an escalation in the Saudi-Iranian conflict (Photo: EPA, Getty Images, AFP)

 

Those who knew him well, including in Israel, are willing to swear that he didn’t even want to jump into Lebanon’s muddy and dangerous waters. It was the Saudi royal family that pulled him out of the luxury palaces in Paris, sent him to run for prime minister and even funded his election campaign.

 

As far as the Lebanese are concerned, the assassination plot revealed in Hariri’s resignation speech on Saturday is just an excuse. There’s no one in Beirut who believes the prime minister resigned to avoid the fate of his father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in the heart of Beirut in 2005.

 

After all, within less than a week he visited Saudi Arabia twice and met with Crowne Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It’s reasonable to assume that the Saudis drafted his resignation speech for him in a bid to send Lebanon into a political tailspin that would weaken Hezbollah.

 

Hariri is leaving a split Lebanon behind him: The Sunni camp, which supports Saudi Arabia, against the Hezbollah-led Shiite camp, which supports Iran. In recent months, the Shiite camp has grown stronger and it control all the government institutions—the army, the security and intelligence apparatuses, the government ministries and the presidential palace.

 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun isn’t hiding his blind loyalty to the Revolutionary Guards’ representatives. On the other hand, Israeli planes are circling in Lebanese airspace as if it’s their home court on their way to attack targets in Syria. Behind the scenes, Israel is sticking its fingers in Lebanon’s political mud as well.

 

Hariri’s departure is aimed at paving the way to an escalation in the Saudi-Iranian conflict. The royal family in Riyadh has had enough of seeing the Iran expanding in Syria and the Revolutionary Guard taking over Lebanon. The Saudi crowne prince’s plans have yet to be revealed in full, but sources in Beirut believe Hezbollah is already on defensive alert.

 

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