Saudi-Iranian issues of discord highlighted by Hariri’s resignation
London- The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri highlighted the essence of the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Riyadh recently pledging to help preserve Lebanon’s stability and the latter creating an atmosphere of intimidation that led to Hariri’s abrupt resignation.
In a televised broadcast from Riyadh, Hariri attacked Iran and Hezbollah for meddling in Arab affairs and said: “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”
Hariri’s resignation signals a new phase for countering the Iran-backed Hezbollah and curtailing Iranian influence in Lebanon and Syria.
Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan earlier had sharply criticised Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” during an interview with the Lebanese television station MTV.
Sabhan is a veteran Saudi diplomat who has been tasked with dealing with some of the kingdom’s most pressing international files, particularly issues related to Iranian expansionary activities and the Islamic State.
In 2016, he became the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq in a quarter century but had to resign his post due to threats on his life for speaking against Iran-sponsored militias active in Iraq.
Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia last week. Hariri also met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
In postings on Twitter, Sabhan described his meeting with Hariri as “long and fruitful” and said there were agreements regarding many issues concerning the Lebanese people. “What comes is better, God willing,” Sabhan tweeted on October 31.
Sabhan rapped the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah’s criticism of the kingdom. He earlier said those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be “punished.” Hezbollah will be held accountable for its “war on Saudi Arabia” and its exploitation of the people of Lebanon, Sabhan said in comments published by Sky News Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was “determined to stand resolute against Hezbollah, the satanic militia working to recruit and train outlaws in the party’s strongholds in Lebanon,” he added.
“Hezbollah is declaring war on Saudi Arabia with the Iranian weapons and missiles they are launching from Yemen.”
Sabhan accused Hezbollah of “manufacturing drugs in Lebanon and attempting to smuggle them into Arab countries to destroy the youth. We must hold this militia accountable as a lesson for others, to guarantee the security and safety of our people.
“Hezbollah’s militias are exploiting Lebanese ports and airport to carry out terrorist operations as well as smuggle terrorists.
“We have an effective treatment that can put an end to this rampant tumour and, God willing, we will be able to work for the future of our countries and the future of Lebanon as well.”
With regards to Hariri’s resignation, Sabhan gave a cryptic tweet saying: “The hands of treachery and aggression must be removed.”
The attacks on Hezbollah came after new US sanctions were imposed on the group.
“These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” said US Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The US House widened the 2015 US Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) and passed a resolution calling on the European Union to classify the group as a terrorist organisation. Hezbollah has been listed as such by several international entities, including the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League.
The US State Department earlier offered $12 million in rewards for information leading to the arrest of two Hezbollah operatives. Also, the recent release of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s personal documents by the CIA revealed links to Iran and Hezbollah.
The documents indicated that Iran offered al-Qaeda operatives “money and arms and everything they need and offered them training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia.”