In a move that came as a shock to his country, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri resigned his position over the weekend less than a year after starting his term.
As the reason why he was quitting he said he feared being assassinated by the Shia Lebananese Hezbollah movement, which also happens to be his coalition partner in the government.
Seeing Hezbollah plots everywhere, that is just part for the course for Saudi-backed Lebanese Sunni politicians. In fact when Saad’s father, Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 by al-Qaeda, his party and clan opted to blame the Syria-friendly Hezbollah, as it was more politically advantageous, instead.
The part that is much more interesting is this:
Hariri headed to Riyadh on Friday for an unscheduled visit, having been in the Saudi capital only three days earlier. The next morning, he announced his resignation in a live broadcast on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network.
Hariri announced his resignation on Saudi TV, from an undisclosed location in Saudi Arabia. Clearly the Saudis had urgently summoned Hariri to Riyadh where they informed him he needed to resign as PM of another country.
His resignation did not only come as a surprise to the general Lebanese public, but even his closest aides which the Saudis demanded he travels without. Probably even Hariri himself did not know he was being summoned to Riyadh to be ordered to throw himself on the sword and bring down the national-unity government of Lebanon.
The one similar historical episode that comes to mind is the visit of Czechoslovak president, Emil Hacha to Germany on March 14th, 1939, when he was summoned by Hitler to Berlin only to be told the Germans were marching in and he needed to order the Czech army to stand down or face terrible consequences.
Though not quite as dramatic, Hariri’s conduct is if anything even more servile. The Saudis have no army with which to threaten Lebanon, but they do pull Hariri’s strings and that is all they need.
Before the semi-functional power-sharing agreement which is now in jeopardy was set up last year the country had gone through two and a half years of political deadlock. Hariri has just plunged his country into deep political uncertainty for the sake of a highly adventuristic Saudi Arabia, which is no friend of Lebanon (friends don’t sabotage each other’s national unity governments).
In fact, the Saudis have announced that by virtue of Yemen lobbing a Yemeni Burqan 2H rocket at Riyadh, Lebanon (along with Iran) had “declared war” on Saudi Arabia. That makes Hariri something very close to a Quisling.