[Update-2] : “Inflammatory headline?” … not if you have some knowledge of the colonial empires and a bit of Middle East history since World War II. 🙂
Beirut: A few days before celebrating the first anniversary of his return to power, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on Saturday, delivering a high-tone speech from Riyadh, blaming his resignation on Hezbollah and Iran.
The move comes one week after Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer Al Sabhan called for the toppling of Hezbollah, promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days.
The surprise resignation was made in a televised address, where Hariri launched a vicious attack on Tehran, saying: “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”
He of course was referring to Hezbollah, the Lebanese military group that held two posts in Hariri’s cabinet. The ministry of sports and youth is held by a Hezbollah minister and so is the portfolio of industry, while the ministries of agriculture, finance, and state development are in the hands of its ally, the Amal movement.
Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the personal security detail of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who resigned on Saturday, had “confirmed information” of a plot to kill him.
Speaking in an interview on Future, an Arabic television channel owned by Hariri, he said Hariri was in Riyadh, adding there were “security threats to the prime minister and the kingdom is keen on his safety.”
He added that Hariri resigned from Riyadh for security reasons.
“Saudi Arabia is different than the terrorist state Iran. We respect Lebanese parties despite their different opinions,” Sabhan added.
Speaking to the Lebanese television channel LBC, Sabhan said Hariri is completely free to return to Lebanon, adding, however: “We do not want explosions and destruction to happen again in the Hariri family.”
Hariri had returned to office after a five-year absence last November, through a power-sharing deal that was reached between him and General Michel Aoun, the current president.
Last August, two members of Hariri’s cabinet defied his request and visited Damascus, despite the official policy of the Lebanese government to stand at arms-length from both sides of the Syrian conflict.
In September, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil met with his Syrian counterpart Walid Mouallem. Hariri himself has repeatedly called for the toppling of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and stressed that he would never visit Damascus before the fall of the Syrian regime, which he accuses of assassinating his father Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
“The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it,” Hariri said on Saturday, accusing the Iranian regime of spreading chaos and sectarianism throughout the Middle East.
More below the fold …
Beirut: Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s bombshell resignation in a televised speech took the nation by surprise on Saturday. In his announcement, Hariri accused Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, of holding Lebanon hostage and destabilising the Arab region.
But what is behind his resignation and what does it mean for Lebanon?
Hariri became prime minister in late 2016 in a coalition government that included the militant group Hezbollah.
It has been an uneasy partnership between Hariri, and Hezbollah, Iran’s Shiite proxy in Lebanon, which has sent thousands of its fighters to shore up President Bashar Al Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war.
As Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Syrian troops made successive military victories, Hariri came under pressure from Washington and Riyadh to distance himself from the group.
In recent days, Lebanese government ministers have bickered publicly over sending an ambassador to Damascus and repatriation plans for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Officials denied the tension threatened the unity government.
t is not clear what exactly prompted his shock resignation – unprecedented in the way it was announced in a televised address. Even close aides seemed not to know it was coming.
In his speech, Hariri said he feared for his life, suggesting he may not be coming home soon. Hariri was prime minister from 2009 until 2011, when Hezbollah ousted him from office. He had until last year lived in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia and France.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States has put Syria on notice, warning that further action would be taken by the U.N. Security Council if Damascus continued to obstruct the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“The United States has grave and continuing concerns about Syria’s destabilizing behavior and sponsorship of terrorism,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a written statement.
“Syria must cease obstructing the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and instead cooperate fully and unconditionally, as required by U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
A U.N. investigation has so far found evidence it believes indicates top-ranked Syrian and Lebanese officials were involved in the killing of Hariri, who died in a massive explosion when his motorcade was bombed in Beirut last February.
The probe also criticized the level of Syrian cooperation and urged Damascus to be more forthcoming with investigators.
Syrian officials have denied any involvement in his slaying. However, the former Syrian vice president, who has fled the nation, recently came forward, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made direct personal threats against Hariri, months before he was assassinated.
More than 12 years after the assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri, prosecutors in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon could wrap up their case this week.
The tribunal, taking place in The Hague, is intended to determine who was responsible for the bombing that killed Hariri in 2005 along with eight of his bodyguards and 13 bystanders.
The assassination has heavily influenced Lebanese politics in the last 12 years, perhaps more than any other single event. In the months after Hariri’s murder, massive protests against the Syrian government’s 29-year occupation of Lebanon prompted the Syrian military to withdraw. The event has become known as the Cedar Revolution, and it also divided Lebanon’s political parties into pro- and anti-Syrian factions that endure to this day.
Hariri — a fierce critic of Syria — was prime minister from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 to 2004. Many Lebanese believe Syrian president Bashar Al Assad ordered his assassination to prevent Hariri from being elected to a third term.
In 2011, Lebanese politics was rocked when five men — Hussein Hassan Oneissi, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Assad Hassan Sabra, Hassan Habib Merhi and Mustafa Amine Badreddine — were indicted on charges of murder and terrorism. The five are all believed to be, or to have been, high-ranking members of Hizbollah, the Lebanese political party and militia that has maintained an alliance with the Syrian government since its creation in the early 1980s. All five are being tried in absentia.
Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, followed in his father’s footsteps as prime minister in 2009. But his term ended when Hizbollah-affiliated cabinet ministers withdrew from the government in 2011 after Mr Hariri refused to reject the special tribunal’s indictments. At the time, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah promised that no member of his party would be arrested, and Lebanese authorities have until now declined to make any attempt to do so.
“No Lebanese government will be able to make any arrests whether in 30 days, 30 years or even 300 years,” he said after the indictments were announced.
Hizbollah’s press office declined to provide further comment on the special tribunal, as it regards its proceedings as “illegitimate”. Mr Nasrallah publicly reiterated his stance as recently as last year.
But political calculations in Lebanon have changed vastly since 2011. Earlier this year, Saad Hariri, who was elected to a second term as prime minister in 2016, found himself praising Hizbollah and its role in helping to end the presence of ISIL and Al Qaeda-linked militant groups in northern Lebanon. Lebanon effectively has a consensus government and the trial takes place mostly in the background, at least for now.
“Nobody cares anymore,” said Liliane Bou Raad, who was injured in the explosion and travelled to The Hague last month to testify for the prosecution.
“At first, all of the TV stations covered it, now it is only Future TV,” she said, referring to the Lebanese channel Rafik Hariri founded in 1993.
Hamas – the connection to Qatar, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Morsi, Erdogan’s Turkey and the reign of HRC as Secretary of State. The Libya and Syria foreign policy debacle and massacre of civilians. The Benghazi raid by “friendly” terrorists. The weaponization of the Sahara region, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the loss of American lives in Niger. The rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the plight of girls taken as brides for Islamic fighters.
There are some dissident sons of King Abdulaziz challenging the Saudi establishment from the outside like the 75-year-old Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, once dubbed the “Red Prince,” who in 2007 threatened to form his own political party to promote greater democracy. Parties are banned in the kingdom, and he was convinced by the current king to drop his explosive proposal. There are also noted liberals like Prince Talal’s son, ○ Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, 55, ranking as the world’s 19th richest billionaire and pushing for reform from within. However, neither is well placed politically to become a contender in the pending royal sweepstakes.
You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.
Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win.
— الوليد بن طلال (@Alwaleed_Talal) 11 december 2015
At the top of the “old guard” list stands Prince Salman, 74, the governor of Riyadh, the kingdom’s central heartland, since 1962. He has long been the family peacemaker and led the inner council of the House of Saud. He has the added distinction of belonging to the powerful Sudairi clan—seven brothers sharing the same mother—to which Crown Prince Sultan and Prince Nayef also belong. One possible shortcoming: Salman, too, has been suffering from back problems and just underwent surgery in the United States.
Another likely contender is Prince Muqrin. At 65, he is the youngest living son of King Abdulaziz and has been head of Saudi General Intelligence since 2005. Muqrin was a distinguished British-trained pilot who made his career in the Royal Saudi Air Force before becoming governor first of Hail Province in 1980 and then of the Muslim holy city of Medina in 1999.