Beirut (GPA) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has “suspended” his resignation, marking yet another failure of Saudi foreign policy.
Upon his return to Lebanon yesterday, former ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with President Michel Aoun to discuss his current status. Following the meeting, in which, Hariri says Aoun asked him to “put [his resignation] on hold ahead of further consultations,” leading him to “suspend” his illegal resignation.
The illegality of Mr. Hariri’s decision to resign from within another country is apparently what brought the ex-PM back. “Today I presented my resignation to his Excellency the president,” he said but agreed to suspended the resignation at the President’s request “ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it.”
This “consultation” period is likely to be the most important aspect of Hariri’s return to Lebanon, since his reasons for resigning caused an uproar. This is, of course, referring to the fact that Hariri claimed he had to leave Lebanon due to fear for his life.
Hariri never followed up on the statement about fearing for his life with any detail, leaving many to question who exactly was threatening him. When Lebanese intelligence was consulted by the media following these accusations, they responded that they had no idea what the PM was talking about.
What most people took from Hariri’s statements was a vague targeting of Hezbollah, especially since he was announcing his resignation in Saudi Arabia. This is also a reasonable conclusion when you watch the rest of Hariri’s statements, which sounded just like Saudi propaganda, paranoid links to Iran and all.
There were also other signs leading many to speculate Saudi manipulation of Mr. Hariri; who has billions of dollars invested in his business located in Saudi Arabia. Besides a strange interview on Saudi television, where Hariri appeared to have some kind of handler, there was also the fact that Hariri seemingly dissapeared after he resigned only making around 5 public appearances in three weeks.
This led many people to speculate that Mr. Hariri’s assets were being threatened – this was in the midst of the Saudi “anti-corruption” account freezes – essentially making him a prisoner of the Saudis. This wasn’t just being speculated by random nobodies either, but by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, the Christian President Aoun, and even members of Hariri’s own Future Movement.
There’s not a lot of reasons to doubt that the Saudis were behind all of this since at the same time the Hariri drama was playing out Riyadh was screaming about Iranian influence from Beirut to Sana’a. Also during this period, Saudi Arabia basically publicly admitted what everyone knew, which is that they have deep ties and mutual interests with Israel.
This relationship was brought out of the closet in several events that unfolded while Hariri was absent from Lebanon, including a leaked memo from Tel Aviv telling their diplomatic missions to lobby for the Saudis against Iran. Later in the week an Israeli chief of staff also appeared in Saudi media saying Israel would be open to sharing intelligence on Iran.
This was the main motivation for the Saudis to try and equate Hezbollah and Iran through their propaganda for weeks on end, and to attempt to make Lebanon appear unstable by advising their citizens to flee the country. However, due to the fact that Hezbollah already embarrassed Israel in 2006, it seems Tel Aviv has no appetite to relive this, and definitely not with Iran thrown into the mix.
While it is unlikely Hariri will remain in Lebanon much longer, the good news is that the Saudi plans to turn the Lebanese people against Hezbollah have backfired. While the Saudis may have initially believed isolationg Lebanon and having their inside man resign would turn the people on Hezbollah, it’s clear now that even those in Lebanon not allied with Hezbollah would rather have them around than the Saudis trying to manipulate their internal affairs.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.