The Hariri and Saudi Drama

The Hariri and Saudi Drama

Friday, 2 March, 2018 - 09:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
Many people were surprised and astonished when Saudi Arabia invited Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to visit, and he welcomed the invitation. The crisis surrounding him has proven that Saudi Arabia did not have absolute authority over any of its allies, even Hariri, whose father had a strong relationship and long history with the Kingdom. The crisis has also proven that Saudi Arabia is a state, not an exclusive agency for Hariri or any faction or party.

Unlike the Kingdom, Iran has full ownership of its allies in Lebanon, treating them as followers and employees, whatever their position in their country, and regardless of who they represent. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has no room for maneuver unless Tehran gives the green light. If he disobeys, he will be put in a shroud and taken to his last resting place.

Differences between real allies — not servants and followers — are natural, and they have occurred, albeit rarely, between some Lebanese leaders and Saudi Arabia. Salim Al-Hoss, during his premiership, sometimes sided with Damascus, as did Najib Miqati. This did not meet Riyadh’s expectations, yet its relationships with them remained good.

Lebanese leaders master the game of axes, whether to express the needs of the local groups they represent or the external forces they are allied with. Leadership in Lebanon is a dangerous profession. It is the Arab country with the most political leaders assassinated. Others have been confined to their homes and rarely venture out.

Ironically, Hezbollah — which murdered Hariri’s father — led demonstrations to allegedly "rescue" the current prime minister from Saudi Arabia. The Lebanese people cannot forget that Hezbollah assassinated more than 20 of their country’s leaders. By contrast, Saudi Arabia, which has been dealing with Lebanon and its affairs since the 1950s, has never laid a hand on any of its leaders. Hezbollah’s enthusiasm for "saving" Hariri is, in fact, a desire to get rid of him. It wants to throw him out of Riyadh’s circle in order to eliminate his source of strength.

Damascus and Tehran get rid of their opponents via murder and intimidation. In Lebanon, they assassinated Bachir Gemayel, Kamal Jumblat, Rafik Hariri, George Hawi, Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni, and badly injured May Chidiac.

Riyadh has interests in, and well-established ties with, Lebanon and the whole region. Saudi interests lie in good relations with all independent leaders to serve common interests, including the liberation of Lebanon and the region from Iranian hegemony, which is directed against the Kingdom and others.

Tehran is taking over the Lebanese state to impose its territorial agenda in Syria and Iraq, and to strike a balance with Israel to serve its nuclear and regional projects. To Iran, Palestine is nothing but a bargaining chip.

This is the Saudi-Iranian equation in Lebanon. The Kingdom’s invitation to Lebanon’s prime minister is a surprising step forward. The ploy to weaken and destroy him has been crushed, as has the attempt to empower Iran in Lebanon and the rest of the region.

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