Blasting Hezbollah, Riyadh accuses Lebanon of declaring war on kingdom

Saad Hariri

The government was formed late last year in a political deal that ended years of deadlock, and last month it produced Lebanon's first budget since 2005.

In a television broadcast on Saturday, 4 November, al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who has the support of Riyadh for a long time, dramatically announced his resignation from the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

"Lebanon and the great Lebanese people became in the eye of the storm and subjected to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm Hezbollah", he said.

"I want to tell Iran and its followers that it will lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries".

Saad Hariri's apparently Saudi-dictated resignation as prime minister of Lebanon is the latest effort by Riyadh in its losing struggle to combat Iranian influence in the region.

The resignation marks the end of a shaky Shia-Sunni political alliance forming the government, which has somewhat managed to keep away the violence battering neighbouring Syria.

Hariri's resignation toppled a coalition government that included Hezbollah, thrusting Lebanon back into the frontline of the Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and risking an open-ended political crisis.

"The United Nations remains committed to supporting the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon", the statement concluded. "To the extent that Lebanon works and functions, Hezbollah derives legitimacy from being part of that", said Brandon Friedman, a scholar at Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center.

"The Lebanese must choose between peace or aligning with Hizballah", Sabhan said.

On Tuesday, Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hizballah Lebanese daily, claimed he was under house arrest in Riyadh with his family, a claim denied by Saudi Arabia. Hariri is Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician. "As Hezbollah matured and played a more integral role in governance, it wanted to be seen as creating the means for a stronger, more effective Lebanon". Israel is not interested in escalation in the near future, and the same is true of Hezbollah. "But if the Saudis fail and Hezbollah strengthens its position and has more room to maneuver, we will lose", said Shavit. Israel has reportedly forged ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states over a shared distrust of Iran.

Moreover, the UN has a longtime peacekeeping operation in Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon "UNIFIL". Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh sought to calm fears the political turmoil would hit Lebanon's already fragile economy, issuing a statement to reaffirm the stability of its currency, which is pegged against the US dollar.



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