Lebanese despair as Beirut 'declares war' on Riyadh

Lebanese despair as Beirut 'declares war' on Riyadh
3 min read
07 November, 2017
Lebanon has declared war on Saudi Arabia, a Saudi official claimed days after the kingdom strong-armed Lebanese PM Hariri to resign amid reports he is under house arrest in Riyadh.
The remarks by Saudi officials have been met with confusion and despair in Lebanon [Anadolu]
Lebanon has declared war on Saudi Arabia, a high-level Saudi official claims, days after the kingdom apparently strong-armed Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign amid reports he is under house arrest in Riyadh.

The astounding claim has been met with both ridicule and despair in Lebanon, including on social media, as the Saudi escalation is causing anxiety over the country's economy and possibility of unrest and war against the small beleaguered nation. 

Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan, a key figure in the intrigue taking place in Riyadh, said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he described as aggression by Hizballah.

Blaming the Hariri-led administration for failing to take action against Hizballah during a year in office, Sabhan said: “There are those who will stop (Hizballah) and make it return to the caves of South Lebanon”, in a pejorative reference to the heartland of the Shia community.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he threatened: “Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return.”

He did not spell out what action Saudi Arabia might take against Lebanon, a country with a weak and heavily indebted state that is still rebuilding from its 1975-90 civil war and where one-in-four people is a Syrian refugee, according to Reuters.

Hizballah is both a military and a political organisation that is represented in the Lebanese parliament and in the Hariri-led coalition government formed last year.

Its powerful military wing is widely seen as stronger than the Lebanese army, and has played a major role in the war in neighbouring Syria. Its arms are a divisive issue and there have been fears that any attempt to disarm them without Hizballah's consent would trigger a new civil war in Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities said on Monday that the country’s financial institutions could cope with Hariri’s resignation and the stability of the Lebanese pound was not at risk.

But the cash price of Lebanon’s US dollar-denominated bonds fell, with longer-dated maturities suffering hefty losses as investors took a dim view of the medium-to longer-term outlook for Lebanon.

Born in Saudi Arabia, Hariri was running the family's vast Oger construction firm in the kingdom when his father was assassinated in February 2005.

At his family's urging, he returned to Beirut to enter politics, playing a key role in mass demonstrations that ended with the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon after a 30-year presence.

Hariri then headed an anti-Syrian bloc to victory in 2005 legislative elections, eventually serving as prime minister intermittently throughout 2017.

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. A short statement from his officer said he visited Abu Dhabi before returning to Riyadh on Wednesday.