Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri just concluded his first interview since what appears to be his forced resignation after landing in Saudi Arabia a week ago which began what many describe as a house arrest. "I was at my home [in Saudi] and not The Ritz," he explained during what regional outlets are describing as a very carefully controlled and choreographed interview. " He further announced that the withdrawal of his own resignation is conditional on Hezbollah withdrawing from region's conflicts, saying: "My resignation could be withdrawn if Lebanon sticks to its policy of disassociation."
Hariri spoke publicly on Sunday for the first time since his unexpected disappearance from Lebanon fueled myriad theories concerning what is really happening behind the scenes as MBS simultaneously initiated an aggressive consolidation of power resulting the arrests of dozens of princes and top officials, including the deaths of at least two princes.
Screenshot: ex-PM Hariri spoke publicly on Sunday for the first time since his unexpected disappearance from Lebanon
Paula Yacoubian of Hariri’s Future TV went to Riyadh for the unexpected interview - though reportedly without her broadcast crew as it was banned from entering the country.
The region and world media has waited with bated breath concerning his fate and the reasons for his shocking sudden withdrawal to Saudi Arabia, which sent Lebanon and parts of the region into political chaos.
US State dept is clearly acknowledging that Hariri's resignation was imposed on him by the Saudis and does not see it as being legitimate. "We respect Lebanese Prime Minister #Hariri as a strong partner of the United States" #KSA #Lebanon pic.twitter.com/KdHsBJ3178— Walid (@walid970721) November 11, 2017
Though it must be remembered that PM Hariri gave the interview under circumstances of coercion and duress as essentially a prisoner of the Saudi authorities (world leaders have pressed the Saudis for an explanation), he predictably took a clear anti-Iran and anti-Syrian position while attempting to strike some level of balance concerning Hezbollah's political role in Lebanon: "Iran must stop its meddling in Arab countries" he said, but added: "We are telling Hezbollah, we are with your political role and our interest is in unity not the benefit of an axis" (according to the interview live translation of Lebanon's The Daily Star).
Hariri said further of Lebanese unity and his hoped for renewed "disassociation policy" [disassociation from the Syrian war and Syria/Iran alignment]:
"My Relationship with him [President Aoun] is great. When I head back to Lebanon we are going to have a dialogue and see how we are going to continue with the settlement. We need to make things right with the president so that we return back to the disassociation policy. There should be an honest dialogue regarding this point he made when asked about how he will convince Hezbollah about this."
"We previously discussed this with Hezbollah but there was no President. Now there is a President. I think regionally we can reach an agreement in terms of Hezbollah’s weapons ."
And in reference to Iran and the Hezbollah-Iran axis Hariri said:
"My position was clear in that your interference with Arab countries was unacceptable. We are telling Hezbollah, we are with your political role and our interest is in unity not the benefit of an axis. Saudi Arabia when it comes to Lebanon is helping and assisting Lebanon. But what others are doing? Why do want to place ourselves in the middle in all of this? There were radical differences with Hezbollah that were placed aside to keep things going."
"Saudi Arabia when it comes to Lebanon is helping and assisting Lebanon. But what others are doing?"
"Hezbollah is a regional issue and not just a Lebanese issue."
"The dialogue with Hezbollah led to stability, but I can’t agree on interference in other’s affairs. I tell Hezbollah that it is in your interest to let go of certain positions."
He called his resignation a "positive shock" intended for the protection and security of Lebanon, but also said that it his resignation could be reversed:
"Resignation could be withdrawn if Lebanon sticks to its policy of disassociation. I was at my home [in Saudi] and not The Ritz [in reference to the detained Saudi princes]. When you create such shock you want to give people time to comprehend it and to fully think about what I have done and why I did it."
"If you want me to come tonight, I will come tonight if you want me to come tomorrow I will come tomorrow."
Asked about the so-called anti-corruption drive (or rather, MBS' brutal purge) in Saudi Arabia, Hariri responded:
"I hope we can do the same thing with corruption in Lebanon. There is corruption and we should fight it. It was a coincidence that this happened at the time of my resignation. MBS knows what he is doing, as does King Salman as well. This is an internal Saudi thing. All this international mobilization ensures Lebanon's stability and sovereignty."
"A long discussion was held with MBS, he was excited for the Lebanese, who have the experience to be part of the NEOM project" [part of KSA's proposed "Vision 2030" project for aggressive and 'futurist' modernization].
He appealed for calm as Lebanese take to the streets in protest of what appears to be his "house arrest" in Saudi Arabia:
"I hope that all people will keep the mobilization on the street civilized and stay calm. Dar al-Fatwa [Lebanon's Sunni religous authority] brings together all Lebanese. All people know that what I need is Lebanon's stability and the first country that wants that is Saudi Arabia."
Hariri was asked who in the Lebanese government he is in communication with while in Saudi Arabia:
"I am in a period of contemplation. We are not announcing all the meetings that are taking place. My family is at home and my children were still in school."
"I am going back to Lebanon and work again. We have a new approach and will be in dialogue in order to find a true settlement. Parliamentary elections are still on."
"I tell the Lebanese that what Rafik Hariri offered, Saad Hariri will offer. We need to know that there are Arab friends and relationships that we need to preserve. This march that we continue with is that of Rafik Hariri's."
Some social media commentators pointed out what appear to be a moment suggestive of coercion:
Watch this clip as the man appears with a piece of paper right across from Hariri. https://t.co/qY9R8nzlN7— asad abukhalil (@asadabukhalil) November 12, 2017
During last week's political chaos, the Saudis quickly claimed that Lebanon declared war on it following the obviously staged and forced resignation of Hariri via Saudi Arabia. This appears to be a case of classic psychological projection, as in reality, Saudi Arabia appears to have declared war on Lebanon. It straight up kidnapped their Prime Minister - essential context which must be remembered when evaluating today's interview.