Hariri needs pro­tec­tion from Hezbol­lah, not Saudi Ara­bia

Arab News - - OPINION - FAISAL J. AB­BAS| ED­I­TOR IN CHIEF

Given that Hariri nei­ther agrees with at­tacks on a fel­low Arab coun­try and ma­jor ally such as Saudi Ara­bia, nor ac­cepts re­spon­si­bil­ity for the con­se­quences, it must be ar­gued that it was Hezbol­lah, not Riyadh, that forced him to step down.

FOR­MER Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri emerged as an hon­est, car­ing and true states­man in his re­cent tele­vi­sion in­ter­view, in which he dis­missed ru­mors about his res­ig­na­tion and his stay in Saudi Ara­bia. Yes, he did seem con­cerned and rather alarmed, but this is not be­cause he is wor­ried about him­self, but rather about his coun­try; and, as has emerged, he has ev­ery right to be.

The in­ter­view it­self was solid, even though it was broad­cast on Hariri’s own chan­nel, Fu­ture Tele­vi­sion. The in­ter­viewer, TV host Paula Ya­coubian, did not hold back, and asked ev­ery dar­ing ques­tion imag­in­able — in­clud­ing whether Hariri had been forced to re­sign, and if he was be­ing held in Riyadh against his will.

Now, whether or not Hariri spoke the truth on all counts is a sep­a­rate is­sue, and will al­ways be de­bat­able. Of course, while he would cer­tainly not be the first politi­cian to lie in pub­lic, one has to take what he said at face value, par­tic­u­larly given that it made a lot of po­lit­i­cal sense.

The most im­por­tant takeaway from the in­ter­view was that Saudi Ara­bia is out­raged at Hezbol­lah’s in­volve­ment in Ye­men. As Hariri cor­rectly im­plied, Riyadh may never have liked this Ira­nian-backed mili­tia be­fore, but there is a big dif­fer­ence now — which is that “Saudis are dy­ing” as a re­sult of the war in Ye­men.

As prime min­is­ter of a gov­ern­ment that in­cludes Hezbol­lah, Hariri could be held di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for its hos­tile ac­tions. And given that Hariri — whose late fa­ther, Rafik, was prob­a­bly as­sas­si­nated by Hezbol­lah — nei­ther agrees with at­tacks on a fel­low Arab coun­try and ma­jor ally such as Saudi Ara­bia, nor ac­cepts re­spon­si­bil­ity for the con­se­quences; then it must be ar­gued that it was Hezbol­lah, not Riyadh, that forced him to step down.

Here it must be pointed out to the highly imag­i­na­tive war­mon­gers in our midst that the mil­i­tary op­tion against Le­banon is highly un­likely. Even if we were to en­ter­tain this idea for a mo­ment, we should re­mem­ber that Saudi Ara­bia does not share a bor­der with Le­banon. This means that any airstrikes to take out Hezbol­lah tar­gets would re­quire co­or­di­na­tion with the Jor­da­ni­ans and the As­sad regime, with which Riyadh is at war over the mas­sacre of its own peo­ple.

An­other fic­tional sce­nario is the equally wildly imag­i­na­tive op­tion of out­sourc­ing the task to Is­rael, with which Saudi Ara­bia has no diplo­matic ties.

Even if, hy­po­thet­i­cally, we be­lieved this to be true, why would Is­rael bother? As much as Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu dis­likes the Ira­ni­ans and their mili­tias, Is­rael is well pro­tected by its Iron Dome, and its north­ern borders have been quiet for years now.

Fur­ther­more, airstrikes were tried be­fore, and it is an es­tab­lished fact that they are in­ef­fec­tive against mili­tias who seek pro­tec­tion un­der­ground.

It could be ar­gued that per­haps sanc­tions or a boy­cott against Le­banon might have been on the ta­ble, and that Hariri — know­ing only too well how these would hurt Le­banon’s al­ready frag­ile econ­omy — de­cided to re­sign as a way of buy­ing some time to ne­go­ti­ate a way out for his coun­try.

This is go­ing to prove dif­fi­cult for him. Hezbol­lah is of­fi­cially ac­cused of killing his fa­ther, and has taken over Beirut by force when chal­lenged in the past.

This is why, rather than spec­u­lat­ing and sub­scrib­ing to the un­likely sug­ges­tion that Saudi Ara­bia is hold­ing Saad Hariri hostage, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should be more con­cerned with guar­an­tee­ing his pro­tec­tion when he even­tu­ally re­turns to Le­banon and con­fronts his gov­ern­ment with the in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence against Hezbol­lah.

QFaisal J. Ab­bas is the ed­i­tor in chief of Arab News. Twit­ter: @FaisalJAb­bas

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saudi Arabia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.