The next “Syrian” scenario could be Lebanon.
– The blitz ordered on Saturday November 4 in Riyadh by the hereditary prince Mohammed bin Salman has all the features of a palace coup deployed for greater power centering.
– Many of the detainees belong to the Abdallah family, namely the clan who aspires to the throne and opponents supporting the soft line with Iran.
– The singular resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, live by Al Arabiya TV. The Lebanese prime minister justified his decision by referring to a possible threat to his life and accused Iran and the Hezbollah Shiite movement of being guilty of “fomenting conflicts in Lebanon and the Arab world” and “sowing destruction” in his country, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.
– A few days before Hariri decided to resign for fear of being killed by the Iranians, Lebanese Prime Minister had received in Beirut the diplomatic Iranian adviser of the Aayatollah Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, who had declared that the meeting had been ” good, positive and constructive “and that” Iranian-Lebanese relations are always constructive and Iran always supports and protects Lebanon’s independence. ”
– For Lebanese newspapers, Ryad would have given Hariri two options: 1) He may remain in a golden exile in Saudi Arabia; 2) may go to Beirut to formalize his resignation and motivate them in parliament as President Aoun has asked. In this case, however, he will be able to go to Beirut for the time strictly necessary (2 days) and he will have to commit himself not to change what he said at the announcement of his resignation. To ensure that he will keep faith in what his family promised will remain in Saudi Arabia. Another “topic” is of course the $ 7 billion granted by Saudi banks to its companies.
– The attempt to intimidate Lebanese internal politics by the Saudis is the result of an agreement with Israel that has been made public in recent days by Israel’s Channel 10 News channel.
– This pressure has as its end the weakening of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the exit from the country’s government to counteract the increased Iranian influence in Syria. The means that will be used are of all kinds, including a possible Israeli military attack in southern Lebanon.
For Lebanon to burn, there is no need for an external threat, with 1,500,000 refugees (almost all Sunni), the risk that somebody will trigger a fuse to bring the chaos to the country – which must be remembered – with only 4 million inhabitants, it is real .
– The Israeli army chief says he is ready to share information with Saudi Arabia
The 2017 Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute began when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia on 4 November 2017. Shortly thereafter, the foreign relations between both countries and allied regional neighbors have become increasingly strained. On 6 November 2017, Saudi Arabia claimed Lebanon declared war between the two states, despite leaders of Lebanon stating otherwise. On 9 November 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates requested their citizens to leave Lebanon. The conflict is thought to be part of the larger Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict.
Iran, Hezbollah, some Lebanese officials and analysts believe that Hariri’s abrupt resignation was made under coercion by Saudis and have claimed that the Saudis have kept him hostage. Iran, Hezbollah and some analysts also believe that this was to create pretext for war against Hezbollah.
In 1989, Saudi Arabia along with the United States helped mediate the end of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War through the Taif Agreement. The agreement left Hezbollah as Lebanon’s only armed sectarian militia, due to its struggle against Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon.
Following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, calls grew for the disarmament of Hezbollah; however, the party resisted any such attempt. Following the assassination of Rafik Hariri — believed to have involved Hezbollah, after Hariri’s call for Hezbollah’s disarmament— Saudi Arabia called for the immediate withdrawal of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has opposed Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon, and its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, as they are seen to be strongly aligned with Iran.
Resignation of PM Hariri
On 4 November 2017, in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, Hariri tendered his resignation from office, citing Iran’s and Hezbollah’s political over-extension in the Middle East region and fears of assassination. Hariri’s resignation led to a drop in Lebanese bonds and warnings of a cut to its credit rating.
Iran vehemently rejected Saad Hariri’s remarks and called his resignation part of a plot by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to heighten Middle Eastern tensions. The Lebanese Army responded with a statement that intelligence in its possession in addition to ongoing arrests and investigations had not revealed “the presence of any plan for assassinations in the country.”
Lebanese president, Michel Aoun is reported as having told foreign ambassadors that Hariri has been kidnapped by Saudi Arabia. Pointing to his twelve-day stay in Saudi Arabia after his resignation, Aoun said that he considers Hariri to be detained by Saudi Arabia.
According to the Independent, Hariri could’ve not resigned on his own as he had already scheduled visits with International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the following Monday. When Hariri’s airplane landed in Riyadh airport, he saw himself surrounded with police forces who confiscated his cellphone and those of his bodyguards. This is believed to part of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman’s extreme measures to curb Iran’s influence in the region.
Several Iran-leaning and Shia-aligned Lebanese groups, including Hezbollah, accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage; Hariri’s associates and Saudi officials have denied this. Several Lebanese commentators poked fun at the released pictures of Hariri in Saudi Arabia for their apparent similarity to those taken of hostages. The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, declared “the resignation of Hariri illegal and invalid.” In November, it was announced that Hariri was on his way from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates. Hariri’s own party’s media outlet reported that he would then move on to Bahrain and later back to Beirut, but both of these trips were subsequently cancelled and he was sent back to Riyadh.
War declaration accusations
Parties involved with the conflict have stated that each side has effectively declared war on one another.
On 4 November 2017, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen possibly targeting the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said the missile was smuggled to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis through Hezbollah operatives. “We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring a war because of Hezbollah militias,” Thamer al-Sabhan, minister of state for Persian Gulf affairs told the Saudi-controlled Al Arabiya network. “Lebanon is kidnapped by the militias of Hezbollah and behind it is Iran.”
On 9 November 2017, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, claiming Hariri’s resignation as invalid, said that Saudi Arabia has “has declared war on Lebanon and Hezbollah.”
Some analysts have speculated Hariri’s resignation could end Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system through the Taif Agreement. The timing of Hariri’s resignation aligned with the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge, leading some to speculate that it is part of Mohammad bin Salman’s plan to consolidate power.
It was also seen as a power play by Saudi Arabia to increase its influence in Lebanon and counterbalance Iranian gains in Iraq and Syria.
Robert Fisk argued that Hariri’s resignation was made under Saudi’s coercion with the aim of forcing Iran-affiliated group, Hezbollah out of the Lebanese parliament and instigate civil war in the country.
E. Michael Jones, a catholic professor and political commentator for Iranian state-run Press TV claimed that Hariri has been kidnapped by Saudi Arabia on Israeli order to create a pretext for war against Hezbollah and Iran.
On 9 November 2017, Saudi Arabia, and subsequently the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, urge all citizens currently in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. Recently, Saudi Arabia declared that a missile attack on its airport from Yemen was “an act of war” by Lebanon.
On 10 November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron made an unscheduled visit to Saudi Arabia amidst an escalating crisis. France is a close partner of Lebanon. United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned against “any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country.” Spokespeople for the French and German foreign ministries however said they did not have reason to believe that Hariri was being kept against his will.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Katz called the resignation a “turning point” for the Middle East. “Now is the time to press and isolate Hezbollah, until it will be weakened and eventually disarmed”.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi told the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh that he supports the reasons for Hariris resignation.
2017 Saudi Arabian purge
A number of prominent Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers, and business people were arrested in Saudi Arabia in November 2017 following the creation of an anti-corruption committee led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (also known as MBS).
There are three alternate theories regarding the motives behind the purge: a genuine corruption crackdown, a project to gain money, or preparing to take over the crown.
The detainees were confined at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh (which hosted the announcement for the planned city of Neom on 24 October 2017), which subsequently stopped accepting new bookings and told guests to leave. Private jets were also grounded to prevent suspects from fleeing the country.
The arrests resulted in the final sidelining of the faction of the late King Abdullah and MBS’s complete consolidation of control of all three branches of the security forces, making him the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia since his grandfather, the first King, Ibn Saud.
As many as 500 people had been rounded up in the ongoing sweep.
Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,700 domestic accounts as part of the crackdown.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Saudi government is targeting cash and assets worth up to $800 billion.
Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Motjeb said in a statement that the arrests were “merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists.” He added that those detained will have access to legal counsel and pledges to hold trials “in a timely and open manner.” Meanwhile, King Salman appointed 26 new judges.
The allegations include money laundering, bribery, extorting officials, and taking advantage of public office for personal gain.
King Salman stated that the anti-corruption committee need to “identify offences, crimes and persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption”. He also referred to the “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money”.
On 24 October 2017 Crown Prince Mohammed who ordered the arrests, told investors in Riyadh that “We are returning to what we were before, a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world”. He also pledged to counter “extremism very soon”.
List of involved people
Those arrested, detained, or removed from their posts include, but are not limited to:
- Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, billionaire businessman
- Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, former head of Saudi Arabian National Guard and son of former King Abdullah.He is seen as the most powerful of those arrested.
- Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh Province
- Prince Turki bin Nasser Al Saud, former head of the presidency of meteorology and environment
- Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, former deputy defense minister
The fate of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, youngest son of King Fahd, is uncertain. There were rumors that Abdul Aziz, age 44, was killed while resisting arrest, but the Saudi information ministry released a statement saying that the prince was “alive and well.”
According to a source in Saudi Arabia who spoke to Middle East Eye, Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, former deputy governor of the ‘Asir Region and a businessman, son of former Crown Prince, was killed while allegedly attempting to flee the country with his private helicopter when it went down and disappeared from radar on November 5, 2017.
Politicians and businessmen
Khaled al-Tuwaijri, former head of royal court
Adel Fakeih, former Economy and Planning Minister
Waleed bin Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, billionaire businessman, brother-in-law of King Fahd, Chairman of Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC)
Amr Al-Dabbagh, businessman, CEO of Al-Dabbagh Group (ADG)
Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, former finance minister
Khalid Abdullah Almolhem, former head of Saudi Arabian Airlines
Saleh Abdullah Kamel, billionaire businessman, owner of Arab Radio and Television Network and founder of the Dallah al Baraka Group,
Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group and half-brother of Osama bin Laden.
Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, Royal Saudi Navy Commander
Mohammad al-Tobaishi, former head of protocol at the Royal Court
Saoud al-Daweesh, former chief executive of Saudi Telecom Company
Nasser Al Tayyar, businessman, non-executive board member Al Tayyar Travel Group
Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, billionaire businessman
According to Sam Blatteis, a former Google head of public policy in the Persian Gulf, “This is the closest thing in the Middle East to glasnost”; other businessmen have compared the purge to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s politically-motivated attacks on Russian oligarchs. The Economist has likened the purge to the anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping.
In Saudi Arabia the purge has been supported by the Council of Senior Scholars and citizens in general, especially the young.