Ex PM Saad Hariri Says Returning To Lebanon This Week

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on November 14th, 2017

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia : Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri – who resigned suddenly Nov. 4, while on a trip, in a televised address from Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday that he will return to Lebanon this week.

“I am feeling very well,” Hariri tweeted, adding that he plans to return to Beirut in two days. “My family lives here in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of goodness.”

Hariri in his televised resignation address from Saudi Arabia, was critical of Iran and its dominant ally group in Lebanon, Hezbollah — whom he accused of sedition and of meddling in Arab affairs beyond their borders.

Hezbollah is involved in Syria’s civil war and supports President Bashar al-Assad. It also supports Houthi rebels in Yemen in its conflict with a Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The military battles are proxy wars that have raised tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hariri’s resignation triggered a political situation in Lebanon and provoked suspicion that Iran, through Hezbollah, infiltrated the Lebanese government. When Hariri appeared in Saudi Arabia, rumors began that he was coerced into leaving the prime minister’s post and that the Saudis held him hostage.

In a televised interview Sunday, Hariri expressed hope that he’d return to the prime minister’s post, if Hezbollah agreed to stay out of regional disputes.

Tuesday’s announcement came on the same day the United Nations called for the end of a Saudi-led closure of all ports in Yemen — which were closed after a Houthi ballistic missile attack, amid fears on the part of Saudi forces that weapons were being smuggled. Riyadh announced the reopening of ports on Monday, but Hodeidah, the port through which 80 percent of Yemen’s imported food passes, remained closed Tuesday.

EARLIER : Kuwait Asks Citizens to Leave Lebanon, Joins SaudiArabia, Bahrain – Kuwait has also asked it’s citizens to leave Lebanon, in an escalation, following similar moves by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Kuwait becomes the third country after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to instruct its citizens to leave Lebanon.

Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry cited “circumstances experienced by Lebanon” and taking “precautionary measure against any negative impact that might take place” as reasons for the move.

Kuwait also urged citizens not to travel to Lebanon and included an emergency phone number for citizens in need of help.

Earlier Thursday, Saudi Arabia instructed its citizens residing in or visiting Lebanon to leave the country “as soon as possible”.

On Sunday, Bahrain called on all citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately.

EARLIER: Saudi Arabia Orders Its Citizens To Leave Lebanon ‘Immediately’: Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens out of Lebanon ‘immediately’ and warned against travel to Lebanon. This is coming in the midst of the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the purge and arrest of dozens of leading Saudi officials, ministers and princes by 32-year old crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

A brief statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis living in or visiting Lebanon to depart, and warned against travel to the country.

The official reason given for carrying out such a frenzy of arrests, demotions and sackings has been given as anti-corruption.

The death of Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, along with seven government officials, in a helicopter crash near the Yemen-Saudi border at the same time as the purge is notable to say the least.

The crown prince, at just 32, is on course to be the youngest Saudi king in the nation’s relatively short history. Surrounded by rivals and potential rivals for his father’s throne — chief among them son of the late King Abdullah, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah — and what with the various crises that have beset the oil-rich Sunni theocracy of late, there seems no doubt that a changing of the guard, and perhaps with it a settling of accounts, is the real reason.

Since replacing his cousin bin Nayef in June, bin Salman has embarked on a campaign to consolidate power, taking on rivals within the royal family. Riyadh has taken on more aggressive policies since bin Salman’s elevation to the position of defense minister and deputy crown prince in 2015, and later to the position of crown prince.

Crown prince Bin Salman – leading the probe as the head of a newly-formed anti-corruption committee – has detained 201 people as part of a sweeping probe, estimating that at least $100 billion has been misused through embezzlement and corruption in past decades. An estimated 1700 bank accounts have been frozen.

Among those detained are billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and two of the late King Abdullah’s sons, including Prince Miteb who until Saturday had headed the powerful National Guard before he was ousted and detained. Prince Miteb was once a contender for the throne and was believed to be opposed to the king’s 32-year-old, Mohammed bin Salman, becoming successor as crown prince.

The sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a close ally of the faction of the Saudi power structure that has just been upended by Prince Salman’s purge, merely adds to the intrigue involved in this affair. Someone in no doubt as to the connection between Hariri’s resignation, which the Lebanese Prime Minister blamed on an Iranian/Hezbollah plot to assassinate him, is Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the aforementioned Lebanese resistance movement. In a recent televised address to his supporters, Nasrallah claimed, “It was not his [Hariri’s] intention, not his wish and not his decision to quit,” asserting that the decision was “imposed” on him by his Saudi backers.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country Saturday when he announced in a televised statement out of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not been seen in Lebanon since.

He said his country had been taken hostage by the militant group Hezbollah, a partner in his coalition government and a major foe of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia says it considers Hezbollah’s participation in the Lebanese government an “act of war” against the kingdom.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will not consider the premier’s resignation until the two meet in person.

The political party of Prime Minister Saad Hariri is calling for his immediate return to Lebanon after he announced his resignation in a strange, pre-recorded statement from Saudi Arabia.

Following a meeting of his Saudi-aligned Future Party in Beirut Thursday, the party issued a statement saying it was “necessary” for Hariri to return “to restore Lebanon’s dignity and respect.”

The statement read by former Prime Minister Fuad Saniora seemed to indicate that Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia against his will.

Hariri resigned his post abruptly on Saturday in a pre-recorded speech from Saudi Arabia and has not returned to Lebanon.

In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the 47-year old prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest.

Hariri reportedly met the French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Thursday in Riyadh, and has met EU, U.K. and U.S. diplomats in recent days.

Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon a day after Hariri’s announcement.

Saudi Arabia is obviously a state currently engulfed by multiple crises to put it mildly. The war in Yemen has entered its third year with no end in sight. Indeed the recent interception of a ballistic missile, launched from Yemen and headed for the airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh, is evidence of the quagmire the war has become for the kingdom. The human toll of the conflict on the Yemeni people — and deafening silence on the part of Western governments, especially the kingdom’s closest Western allies, the US and UK, over the war crimes committed against civilians by Saudi forces — has been so egregious as to leave no doubt, if indeed there could be any, of the desperation on the part of what increasingly resembles a rogue state to neuter the power and influence of Iran in the region.

The Shia behemoth, Iran, is as everyone knows Riyadh’s most bitter regional rival and mortal enemy. It is an objective that drives the kingdom’s foreign policy and alliances, both within and without the region, and which like a rabid dog coveting a bone is an obsession that has succeeded in banishing rationality from its actions in recent years.

The failure of the kingdom’s designs for regime change in Damascus, the failure of its war aims in Yemen, the sharp fall in the price of oil and its concomitant impact on the Saudi economy, an historically high level of youth unemployment at home and clamor of condemnation internationally over the country’s deplorable human rights record — taken together with its failure to weaken Tehran, despite doing its utmost to leverage it’s US ties against the Iranians, does not bode well for it’s long term stability.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are already in a de facto state of war, and have been for a number of years. Each heads a countervailing and antagonistic regional axis of religious, political and geopolitical rivalry, pitted in a determined struggle that evinces no sign of abating. The Saudis, backed by Washington and the West, represent a rigid sectarian Sunni vision for the region, while the Iranians — along with their close allies Hezbollah, the Assad government in Syria, and in conjunction with Russia — are a pillar of non-sectarianism and resistance to US hegemony.

The Israelis, meanwhile, share in Iran a common enemy with Riyadh. Thus the under-the-radar visit to Israel by crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in September, despite both countries sharing no formal diplomatic ties, allows us to speculate that military and intelligence cooperation when it comes to dealing with Iran is now considered of such strategic importance by both countries that it supersedes any other consideration or difference between them.

Time will tell whether Saudi Arabia’s crown Prince Salman is, as some suggest, bent on opening the door to modernity and reform in a society that has long laboured under the stifling weight of religious sectarianism, oppression and with it corruption and hypocrisy on the part of its sclerotic elite. Whatever unfolds in the weeks and months ahead, Saudi Arabia is a state that currently exists in the cross hairs of multiple and enveloping crises of its own design.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would travel to Saudi Arabia after leaving the United Arab Emirates to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discuss crises in Lebanon, Yemen and the wider region.

“I will go in the coming hours to Saudi Arabia to meet the Crown Prince,” Macron told a news conference in Dubai.

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