‘Saudis put pressure on Hariri to ratchet up tensions with Iran’
The French President Emmanuel Macron has invited the former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family to Paris, adding that he is not offering political exile. The move was made to defuse the situation in the Middle East.
Hariri sparked a political crisis at home when 12 days ago he flew to Saudi Arabia and abruptly resigned. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun refused to accept the resignation and accused Riyadh of keeping Hariri hostage.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports citing the Lebanese president that Hariri and his family will arrive in Paris on Saturday, before flying to Beirut to officially submit his resignation as Lebanese prime minister.
Prof. Gerald Horne, author and historian, University of Houston says to grasp the Lebanese crisis it’s vital to understand the crisis in Saudi Arabia.
Gerald Horne: ... I don’t think you can understand this present crisis without understanding the crisis in Saudi Arabia itself, where Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is only 32 years old, has been fighting a losing war in Yemen. Only days ago, he arrested a good deal of the Saudi ruling elite, including many of his cousins and fellow princes, including one of the richest men in the world Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. That has upset many, not only in Saudi Arabia but all around the world.
And of course, he is trying to ratchet up tensions with Iran, which he sees as the major target. That is the purpose of him putting pressure on Mr. Hariri, because Hezbollah in Lebanon is tied to Iran, and that is part of the larger scenario.
RT: Why do you think President Macron decided to intervene in this situation and invite Hariri to France?
GH: Keep in mind that France has historic interest in that part of the world. You may recall that France also has important interest in Syria too, as a former colonizing power. Just a few days ago with regard to the Beirut Marathon in Lebanon, the official announcements at that important race were made in Arabic, English, and French.
Keep in mind as well that Saudi Arabia is in the process of going through a privatization of Aramco, a huge multibillion-dollar oil enterprise. And just as the US wants part of the fees that will come from taking that company at least partially private, French investment bankers want a piece of that action as well.
Mr. Macron before he was president of France was also an investment banker. These are some of the reasons, why Mr. Macron has taken such a decided and dedicated interest in both Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
Martin Jay, Beirut-based award-winning British journalist
RT: Saad Hariri's in Saudi Arabia now, under mysterious circumstances. He flew there, but Lebanese leaders said its detention. Briefly, bring us up to speed. What the French side of this now is?
Martin Jay: The French side of it is very curious; it is quite a thunderbolt. What’s just happened yesterday is that Macron has offered Hariri some sort of ‘exile.’ They are not using the word ‘exile’ of course, but they are stressing this is an offer to him and his family to come just for a few days that well may be a euphemism to come there indefinitely. We just don’t know – there are more questions than answers at this point.
But it is logical that, first of all, the international community would step in, but it is also logical that France would be the obvious country to make such an offer. You have to understand that there is a colonial history of France and Lebanon. Also, Hariri has had a home for a number of years in Paris. So that seems to be quite a smart move.
If we go back to the very beginning, that all kicked off on November 4, when Mr. Hariri’s jet landed in Riyadh airport and was surrounded by police officers who took his phone and ushered him into an office and explained to him that the new crown prince was very unhappy with his one year in office as prime minister of Lebanon, because he hadn’t succeeded in negotiating anything at all with Hezbollah in terms of readdressing the balance of power in the region. He immediately made a speech, which was obviously scripted by the Saudis, which more or less said that “I’m resigning and I blame Hezbollah for that.”
That caused quite a lot of tension and shock in Lebanon. We move forward to November 9 – we saw an interview, which he conducted with the Lebanese TV – his own network in fact. Most people assume here in Lebanon it was entirely scripted for him. He said that he would be back in Lebanon within just a few days. At the same time Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) –were told that they should remove their nationals from Lebanon – that was directly from Riyadh’s orders I suppose to create certain amount of tension there.
So just recently, yesterday in fact, if we bring ourselves up to speed with this drama, the Lebanese president has finally lost his patience. Michel Aoun went public and said that [the Lebanese] prime minister in Riyadh is actually being detained.