|[Published: Wednesday January 10 2018]
Lebanese Prime Minister’s dilemma
By Sarah Diab
LONDON, 10 Jan. - (ANA) – The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri withdrew his resignation just a few weeks after he mysteriously stepped down from his position in November while in Saudi Arabia.
After what was supposed to be one of his regular visits in Saudi Arabia, Hariri announced his resignation on live television stating he could not continue to support Hezbollah’s interventions in other countries blaming Iranian influence. When announcing his resignation, he also mentioned his fear of being assassinated like his father who died in a car bomb attack in 2005.
What intrigued Lebanese as well as the international community was that his speech reflected the exact thoughts the Saudi Arabian authorities shared against what they refer to as Iranian government’s influence in the region. This led to Lebanese officials believing that he was actually forced by the Saudis to resign while being held hostage. Hariri has since denied that, stating on his channel in Saudi Arabia, Future TV, that he was “free in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Nonetheless, he revoked his resignation the moment he arrived in his home country. Following a meeting in the Baabda presidential palace, Hariri explained that “I presented my resignation to his Excellency the President, and he asked me to temporarily suspend it”. He also stressed his call to Hezbollah (who is part of a national unity government formed by the Prime Minister) to stop their external activities and concentrate, instead, on Lebanon as a condition for him to remain in office.
Hezbollah, a Shia Party has been accused of being involved in multiple Middle Eastern countries. With the support of Iran, Hezbollah combatants have allegedly been active in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts as well as helping Palestinian militants fight against Israel. Despite Saudi Arabian claims, however, Hezbollah denied any implications with the Yemeni and Bahraini rebels.
Since Hariri’s’ resignation, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has insisted during a speech that he was “open to any dialogue” with Saad Hariri as he still considered him to be his prime minister regardless of his resignation. This could be read as a dig towards the Saudi authorities.
Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic. It is the prime minister who leads the executive branch of the government. It has adopted a specific type of system in which representatives of particular religious communities hold the highest offices through a proportional organization. Indeed, the prime minister has to be a Sunni Muslim, the President a Maronite Christian and the Speaker of Parliament a Shi’a Muslim. This reflects the distribution of ethinic communities within the country as well as the political parties in government. The Lebanese government is very dense in parties but most of them do not have much power. The diversity of groups sometimes showcases the religious and social tensions that do not make the political situation of the country any easier but it has worked for decades and remains a vivid example for other countries in the region to emulate.
This latest bizarre episode of Hariri’s resignation has highlighted tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two Middle Eastern powerhouses have consistently been fighting proxy wars and the latest intervention within Lebanese politics has been viewed as a reminder of their constant rivalry. The hostilities have been amplified elsewhere between Shiite and Sunnite in the region. Hariri had referred to Hezbollah as “a state within a state”. Nevertheless, the last thing the Lebanese people want at this politically hyped and dangerous juncture is an unstable political entity.
The first condition Hariri invoked for his return to the premiership was the non-interference of Lebanese political parties in other countries’ affairs. In an interview with CNews, he explained that he expects “the neutrality which we agreed upon in government.” He is implying that Lebanon should not engage in any diplomatic wars with other countries and should only concentrate on promoting peace within its borders.
What remains to be seen, however, is how Saudi Arabia will respond to Hariri’s sudden volte-face as they may consider it a snub to their regional policies. The fact remains that Saudi Arabia is running out of options and with the ongoing war in Yemen that is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, it should review its hostility towards Iran and seek reconciliation that would benefit the people of this troublesome region. - (ANA) -