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.
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.
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.