Saad Hariri has announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister and implicitly blamed Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, for his decision.
In a televised address from “Saudi Arabia”, Hariri criticized Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, accusing Tehran of planting “sedition” and meddling in Arab affairs.
Hariri attributed his surprise resignation to what he described as Iranian attempts to impose its hegemony on Lebanon.Even The Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he awaited the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Beirut to hear the “circumstances of his resignation”.
“I tell Iran and its followers that they will lose,” Hariri said. “The hands that send evil to the Arab states will be cut off and evil will go back to their people.”
Hariri accused Hezbollah of using its weapons to impose a “fait accompli” in Lebanon.
“Over the past decades, Hezbollah has used its weapons against the Lebanese and Syrians to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon,” he said, reiterating his rejection of using Lebanon as a platform “to threaten the security of the region”.
Hariri said the atmosphere in Lebanon is quite similar to the period leading up to the assassination of his father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.
“I announce my resignation as a prime minister,” he said. “I’m confident that the will of the Lebanese is stronger and they will be able to defeat hegemony from inside and outside,” he said.
His resignation came one day after he arrived in Riyadh for his second visit to the oil-rich kingdom in less than a week.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional arch foes. While Riyadh supports the Syrian opposition, Iran and Hezbollah are main backers of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime.
Hariri assumed office as prime minister again in December 2016 in a power-sharing government headed by President Michel Aoun, a supporter of Hezbollah, whose members have been charged by the International Court of Justice with assassinating Hariri’s father, Rafik, in a 2005 bombing.
The country spent two years in political deadlock without a president before Aoun’s election in October 2016, after Hariri endorsed the latter, a move seen by some analysts as a sign of Iran’s influence in Lebanon.
His resignation now casts doubt on Lebanon’s political future.
Reacting to the development, Hossein Sheikholeslam, Iran’s foreign ministry official, said in a tweet: “Hariri’s resignation was masterminded by #Trump & Saudi Crown Prince #MBS.”
Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said: “The alliance between Hezbollah and Iran is no secret to anyone. It began and flourished in the 1980s when Lebanon was occupied by Israeli military forces.
“In more recent times, Hezbollah has been a key strategic partner for Iran in the conflict in Syria and is an important reason why Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Syria.
“Iran’s approach to regional conflicts is to speak softly and carry a big stick, and Hezbollah has been an extension of that stick in Lebanon and Syria.”
Imad Harb, a political analyst at the Arab Center in Washington, DC, said that for Hariri to make the announcement in Riyadh “basically means he can’t have control over his government or his country.
“Hezbollah has been in control of the Lebanese state for quite a while and now it’s a supposed victory in Syria on the side of the Syrian regime,” Harb told Al Jazeera, referring to Hezbollah’s role in fighting alongside forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has slowly taken back control over his country following a six-year civil war.
“This has definitely affected Hariri’s decision to resign, I have no doubt that maybe he is afraid for his life.”
Speaking from Beirut, Kamel Wazne, a Lebanese political analyst, told Al Jazeera: “This is a surprise coup by all measures. Everything was fine within the country.
“There is an election coming up. Everybody is talking about planning for of the economic future of the country, and a call came from Saudi Arabia and everything changed.
“This comes in light of imminent American sanctions against Lebanon, certain threats coming from Israel and escalation by the Saudis.
“I think the prime minister probably caved in to the demands of the Saudis and he declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia. This does not bode very well for the stability of Lebanon.”