On November 4, Saad Hariri read out his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister in a televised speech from Riyadh on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, after being summoned to the kingdom by Saudi authorities. Citing an alleged assassination plot against him (which was denied by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces), Hariri’s statement consisted of insults and threats directed at Iran and its ally, the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, which is part of the current Lebanese government. Hariri, who was born in Saudi Arabia and holds dual Lebanese-Saudi citizenship, leads the Saudi-backed Future Movement, Lebanon’s leading Sunni political party. In confrontational language, Hariri parroted Saudi official policy, claiming Iran “brings destruction, desolation, and disorder,” and that “Iran’s hands … will be cut off.”
Hariri’s resignation comes as Saudi Arabia intensifies its anti-Iranian propaganda, using Lebanon and Hezbollah as a pretext. On November 6, Saudi Minister of Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, announced on Al Arabiya that the kingdom “will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia due to the aggression of Hezbollah.” Without presenting evidence, al-Sabhan blamed both Lebanon and Hezbollah for a missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen at Riyadh. A day later, Saudi Arabia also blamed Iran for the missile attack. Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been a fighting a destructive war in Yemen against the Houthis. Repackaging Houthi self-defense against the kingdom’s war of aggression, the Saudi government attempted to use the missile attack to widen its propaganda war against Iran.
Led by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Iran has been encouraged and supported by Israel. In an official statement issued on November 4, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Hariri’s resignation “a wake-up call to the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression.”
Netanyahu’s statement illustrates the increasing convergence between Saudi and Israeli interests in the Middle East. In order to extend their geo-political dominance, the Saudi dictatorship, which is based on Sunni fundamentalism, as well as the ethnocractic settler-colonial state of Israel are trying to ostracize Iran, specifically, and Shiite Muslims, more generally. Most ominously, both Israel and Saudi seek the destruction of Iran and Hezbollah, which they have both designated as a “terrorist organization.”
According to recent reports, Saudi Arabia is trying to convince Israel to launch another war against Lebanon. Since the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), Israel has engaged in intermittent war against the Lebanese state. It engaged in a full-scale war against Lebanon in 2006 and continues to attack Hezbollah in Syria.
After having its prime minister ousted, and with the building prospect of war, Beirut must contend with a Saudi-Israeli alliance that threatens its sovereignty and stability.