Will Lebanon listen to Saad Hariri?
The recent television interview given by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri put to rest speculation that he was being held against his will in Saudi Arabia.
Those rumours were ridiculous because, in Riyadh, Hariri was home among family and friends, friends who are keen on protecting Lebanon, definitely not like those who wish to turn Lebanon into a missile-launching base and serve Iran’s destructive agenda.
There was nothing in Hariri’s words to indicate he would withdraw his resignation. His resignation announcement included a full condemnation of Iran and its role in Lebanon’s tragic situation. In the interview, Hariri admitted that he must indeed return to Lebanon and follow proper procedures for resigning.
What this means is that the ball is in the camp of those who refuse to accept and observe the terms agreed upon during negotiations that put Michel Aoun into the presidency in Lebanon.
Hariri insisted that he refused to accept to turn Lebanon into a “playground.” It is perfectly normal for a Lebanese prime minister who is always repeating “Lebanon first” to lay a minimum of conditions to ensure that his own country is not against him.
In other words, Saad Hariri cannot be a witness to acts that are insulting to Lebanon and its people and to everything in the region that is Arab and not act. Such acts include waging war on the Syrian people or using Yemen to launch missiles on Saudi Arabia or planting terrorist cells in Kuwait and Bahrain.
Hariri has shocked the world twice, once by his resignation and the second time with his interview. When he announced his resignation, he spoke of the causes hampering political and economic life in Lebanon. He hinted at the dangers awaiting Lebanon and its people when terms of the presidential agreement were not observed.
So, why was the interview Hariri gave a few days after his resignation announcement also a shock? It is because he used calm discourse to insist that Lebanon has two choices: Either go back to the terms of the presidential agreement or face serious dangers.
What Hariri did not say was that among those dangers is an eventual Arab boycott. Nearly 90% of Lebanon’s agricultural products are exported to the six Gulf countries. Also, thousands of Lebanese citizens are employed in the Gulf countries and they support thousands of Lebanese families.
He said the gates of the Gulf countries, starting with Saudi Arabia, remain open to Lebanese competencies. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz has offered to employ young Lebanese in the NEOM project.
NEOM is no ordinary project. It calls for the construction of a futuristic city covering 26,000 sq.km in an area close to Egypt and Jordan. This city will take the Saudi kingdom to a world seeped in the culture of openness and moderation and free of cultural complexes. It is a world of modern technology and care for the environment.
Above all, the project will provide a unique frame for the development of Saudi human resources.
The main problem in the Lebanese crisis is that Hariri has positioned himself in one spot while those who were party to the presidential agreement are in another. Lebanon will be doomed if it remains a hostage of the “playground” idea. Should this idea remain in place, the Lebanese people, especially Christians, will have no choice but to leave the country.
The presidential agreement was based on the idea of breathing life into state institutions. The agreement is useless if Hezbollah and its leaders do not realise that their militia’s victories in Syria are victories over those Lebanese who believe in their country. Hezbollah and its leaders must get rid of their fantasy that launching a missile attack on Riyadh from Yemen represents a victory for them.
The Middle East is on the brink of momentous events. If Lebanon wishes to protect itself, it must follow a “dissociation policy.” The expression “dissociation policy” was repeated several times during Hariri’s TV interview. If Hariri decides to return to Lebanon, it will be to protect it while others are doing their best to mire it in a destructive project. Whatever is left of the country’s institutions and economy is at stake.
Will Lebanon get caught in a vicious cycle or will there be people who really understand Hariri’s words? That is what we will soon find out. Getting caught in a vicious circle starts with asking pointless questions such as whether Hariri was being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, instead of going straight to the heart of the problem.
The heart of the problem reduces to one question: Is Lebanon a sovereign Arab state interested in safeguarding its interest and its future and where the only legitimate weapons are those of its army and security forces or is it a “playground” for Iran and its expansionist project?