Al-Hariri resignation uncorks regional tensions

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut

A newspaper stand in Beirut on Monday (November 6th) shows front pages of newspapers featuring former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri following his November 4th resignation. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

A newspaper stand in Beirut on Monday (November 6th) shows front pages of newspapers featuring former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri following his November 4th resignation. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation on Saudi television on Saturday (November 4th), just one year after a political deal that brought Michel Aoun to the presidency and al-Hariri to the premiership.

Al-Hariri delivered his unexpected resignation in a televised speech, broadcast on Al-Arabiya news network, in which he strongly criticised Hizbullah and revealed his concerns about a plot to assassinate him.

According to the Lebanese presidency's media office, "Aoun is waiting for Prime Minister al-Hariri to return to Beirut to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly".

It was unclear when al-Hariri would return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman on Monday, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, Aoun postponed a scheduled visit to Kuwait.

He has contacted the parties to the government coalition to consult with them, and stressed the need for stability and calm to preserve national unity.

He also has met with senior national security officials, including army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun, Defence Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and Justice Minister Salim Jreissati.

Televised speech

Addressing the Lebanese people, al-Hariri described the current circumstances as a "critical juncture of the history of our country and the Arab nation" due to foreign interventions in Lebanon's internal affairs.

He accused Iran-backed Hizbullah of sowing strife, violating state authority and establishing a "state within the state, until it eventually had the upper hand and the final say in the affairs of Lebanon and the Lebanese people".

He also accused Iran of sowing "strife, destruction and devastation in every single place it settles in, as demonstrated by its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen".

"This has thrown Lebanon, together with you the great Lebanese people, in the eye of the storm, making you subject to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm Hizbullah," al-Hariri added.

"I am confident that the will of the Lebanese people and their resolve are stronger, and that they will be able, with their men and women, to overcome tutelage on them both from inside and outside," he said.

Political backdrop

"Al-Hariri had accepted, through the political deal, what nobody else could have endured," said Mouin al-Merehbi of al-Hariri's Future Movement party.

"However, Hizbullah did not meet al-Hariri midway," he told Al-Mashareq. "Rather, its secretary-general [Hassan Nasrallah] attacked Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, bragged about his party’s fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and tried to drag Lebanon to the Iran axis."

"We were trying to maintain the country’s stability, but Hizbullah has become a burden on Lebanon through the international sanctions, and a burden on Lebanon’s relations with Arab countries," he added.

"We just cannot continue to accept the hijacking of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty and the attempt to drag it [into an alliance with Iran]," he said.

"Al-Hariri had thought about resigning when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said no decision can be made in Lebanon without Iran’s approval and when Iran’s allies in the country did not respond," al-Merehbi said.

"He also thought about resigning when Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Syria’s Foreign Minister Waleed al-Muallem met," he added. Their September meeting at the end of the UN General Assembly drew sharp criticism from Lebanese officials at the time, who said it undermined national unity.

Saudi Arabia and Iran

Al-Hariri’s resignation also comes amid Saudi dissatisfaction with developments in Lebanon.

Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan has previously taken to social media to call on "the Lebanese people to decide and choose to be either with or against the terrorist party", referring to Hizbullah.

He also has expressed surprise over the "silence of the Lebanese government over that party’s practices".

The resignation also followed a Friday visit to Lebanon by Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

During his visit, Velayati hijacked the Lebanese army’s border region achievement against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), declaring it "a victory for all of us", in reference to Iran and its allies.

Lebanon will survive

Free Patriotic Movement leader and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil described his "sadness over al-Hariri’s resignation while the government is at peak of performance".

"The unity of Lebanon is more important than anything else, and Lebanon will get past this crisis as it did with other crises," he said.

"Whatever the difficulties are, sacrifice for a minimum of accord and dialogue must be the basis for the sake of Lebanon," Democratic Gathering Bloc head Walid Jumblatt said. "As to one’s life, it is determined by fate."

This is the second time al-Hariri’s government has faced collapse. On January 11th, 2011, Lebanon's unity government collapsed after Hizbullah and its allies resigned from the cabinet.

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The Lebanese are smarter than this and can’t be deceived by these lies and scenarios which were prepared in black kitchens. All of this international attention to this tiny country which is hardly visible on the world map is a proof of its strength, the greatness of its people and the ability of its honest and faithful resistance to disrupt projects and settlements. Our pivot has been victorious in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, and the only thing remaining for Saudi Arabia and its defeated allies is to resort to confrontation. The least they can do now is to engage in political confrontations by forcing Lebanon’s Prime Minister to resign in a statement which is clearly not Lebanese, but written by al-Sanhan par excellence. Who are you deceiving? Only one phrase mentioned in the statement was true, and it may be a slip of the tongue, which is your description of the Lebanese people in your statement as great people. Undoubtedly, they are really great. Days will show you how great the Lebanese people are. We reject slavery to anyone other than God Almighty, and we aren’t intimidated by threats or exaggerations; we’re accustomed to that from those who are stronger than you, and God Almighty has given us victory against them. Remember what God Almighty said, “Surely the kings, when they enter a town, ruin it and make the noblest of its people to be low.” This is what you’re suffering today, but you can’t express that because you accepted to be free before God Almighty and sl


For a state to be free and sovereign, it means that its decision is made by it and is not dictated on it by anyone; otherwise, it will be like Lebanon which is moving with the wind. Various forces are competing there: there is Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other. What is hidden may be even more serious!