Although a U.S.-led coalition has been steadily taking back land captured by the Islamic State group, peace in the Middle East may be as elusive as ever now that tensions are rising between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia urged all Saudi citizens leave Lebanon. This announcement came after a comment Monday from Saudi Gulf-Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan that the Lebanese government would be “dealt with as a government declaring war” on Saudi Arabia, according to The Guardian.
Last week’s action came days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri suddenly left Lebanon for Saudi Arabia, where he was not heard of for days.
Speaking Sunday, he said he will return soon to “unite the Lebanese people.”
Last week, Hariri said he feared an assassination plot and accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing “devastation and chaos.”
“Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq,” he said.
On Sunday, he insisted he could leave Saudi Arabia at any time.
“I will go back to Lebanon very soon and will take all the necessary constitutional steps to resign,” Hariri said, while also adding, “if I revoke my resignation, there should be respect for Lebanon.”
Hariri said that he is not against Hezbollah, but is opposed to anyone interfering in Lebanon, according to BBC News.
“I am not against Hezbollah as a party, I have a problem with Hezbollah destroying the country,” he said.
The main problem for the region, he said, was “Iran interfering in Arab states.”
Some in Lebanon believed Hariri is not free to speak, and is being used by the Saudis.
The New York Times reported that Lebanese President Michel Aoun said anything Hariri said from Saudi Arabia “does not reflect the truth, and is but the result of the mysterious and dubious situation he is undergoing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and hence cannot be taken seriously.”
Lebanon’s potential involvement in the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran scares barber Hussein Khaireddine.
Khaireddine, who is a resident of Beirut suburb Dahiyeh, said “This one’s different. It could lead to every valley and mountain top. And if it starts, it may not stop.”
The Saudis had hoped that Hariri could rein in Hezbollah, which is aligned with Iran.
“That the Saudi leadership ever could have seriously entertained the notion that Hariri could ‘rein in’ Hezbollah appears fanciful if one takes even a cursory look at the group’s relationship to Lebanese governments since 2005, which it either dominated, defied or toppled at will,” said Heiko Wimmen, project director for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon for the International Crisis Group.
“Nor is it plausible to assume Hariri’s resignation would compel Hezbollah to change its ways. No government can be formed without its consent.”