Canada must add its voice to calls for return of Lebanon’s PM
Saudi Arabia is clearly meddling in affairs of its sovereign neighbour, writes Joe Hak.
Lebanon is in the vortex of the Middle East’s perpetual political storm, again.
The Middle East is like entering a house of mirrors — easy to get in, hard to come out. Every occurrence in the region is intertwined within a perplexing history of tribalism, religion, politics, wars and violence, replete with periods of unending horrors.
Fast-forward. On Nov. 4. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is also a Saudi citizen, was asked to visit Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman and his son, the Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS.)
Prior to his trip, Hariri spoke with pride about “achievements by all Lebanese.” Within one year as prime minister, Hariri made excellent progress: peace and stability, defeating ISIS and eradicating them from the East Mountains of Lebanon, creating and signing a new election law.
The day he left to Saudi, he signed several documents including the appointment of a Lebanese ambassador to Syria. Then he was called to meet King Salman and Crown Prince MBS.
Shortly after his arrival in Riyadh, Hariri held a news conference to announce his resignation from his post as Lebanon’s prime minister, leaving everyone shocked, including Lebanon’s president, political leaders, the Future Party he leads and Hariri’s own family.
Concurrently, more than 200 princes, ministers and tycoons have been detained and their monies withheld over allegations of corruption, among them the “Warren Buffett of Arabia” Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Hariri is not charged or suspected of any wrongdoing. Yet, he is not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. Hariri’s mysterious predicament has sent pundits and political analysts to issue a wide spectrum of opinions as varied as Lebanon’s 117 political parties.
Hariri’s sudden televised resignation, in Saudi’s capital, Riyadh, and the apparent restrictions on his mobility by Crown Prince MBS has galvanized all Lebanese, supporters and political opponents alike, in a unified and strong stance: Let our Prime Minister Come Home!
Lebanese strongly believe Hariri symbolizes their national dignity. Resigning from Riyadh is not becoming of an otherwise courageous, pragmatic and reconciliatory leader. Like his late father, he is always a moderate figure, vehemently dedicated to lasting peace among his people and to friendly and strong relations with Arab countries.
Most Lebanese people believe that because of Hariri’s characteristics as a moderate and nation-building figure, he was forced by MBS to resign and his brother Bahaa is already anointed as his replacement. Even the staunchest of Saudi Arabia’s supporters are now declaring Hariri is now in a Saudi-imposed detention.
The people of Lebanon have different and strong opinions about Saudi Arabia’s politics. However, Lebanese have a positive opinion when it comes to the Saudi people themselves. Thousands of Lebanese engineers, doctors, teachers and workers earn their living and support their families from the kingdom.
Many Saudis own homes, spend time with their families and have investments in Lebanon. They are welcomed by the Lebanese with respect and appreciation. Alwaleed bin Talal’s charitable organization has over the years supported many orphanages, hospitals, community centres, seniors’ homes and schools. Clearly, both peoples have always held one another in positions of respect and kinship.
Unfortunately, politics in the Middle East is not driven by people. Rather, politics are dictated by political and financial oligarchs in a perpetual selfserving demagogy — a powerful group, relentlessly expanding their hegemony over the sociopolitical outcomes in the Middle East.
What matters now is that Lebanese are cohesively united in a genuine, solid and strong voice calling on the Saudis to give Hariri his freedom and allow him to come home.
Our Canadian prime minister, who has strong relations with Saudi Arabia, must add his voice to the many world leaders who have called on the Saudis to free Hariri and let him return to Lebanon where his people are waiting, with signs all over the country which read: We’re all Saad! Let Him Come Home!