Saad Hariri finally returned to Beirut late on Tuesday amid tight security after what was essentially a two week house arrest in Riyadh which began on November 4 after his resignation announcement in Saudi Arabia. Lebanese television aired live footage of the former prime ministers plane landing, though he left without addressing the expectant throng of journalists gathered at the airport.
His shocking resignation, which President Michel Aoun has refused to formally accept, came amidst Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's (MBS) aggressive crackdown within the royal family and against high officials, which resulted in the deaths of at least two princes, and the arrests of at least a dozen others. And, in the latest Wednesday morning development in this ongoing saga, Hariri said he has changed his mind and has puts his resignation on hold at the request of the country’s president.
In televised comments quoted by Reuters, Hariri said that he “presented my resignation to President Aoun today and he urged me to wait” for more dialogue. “I showed responsiveness to this hope.” Hariri also denied reports that Riyadh forced him to step down. He says the claims that Saudi Arabia was keeping him against his will are merely “rumors.”
Meanwhile, as reported previously, in the midst of MBS' purge, new revelations emerged and were confirmed of an official Saudi-Israeli intelligence sharing relationship targeting Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah.
Though Hariri tried to calm Lebanese fears during an awkward and likely coerced televised interview from Riyadh, saying, "Resignation could be withdrawn if Lebanon sticks to its policy of disassociation [from Hezbollah/Iran/Syria]. I was at my home [in Saudi] and not The Ritz [in reference to the detained Saudi princes]" - he didn't immediately return to Lebanon, instead traveling to France last Saturday to meet with President Macron.
Some analysts dubbed Hariri's strange travels an Odysseus style exile and wandering as he left France for Egypt to meet with Sisi, after which he arrived in Cyprus to meet with that nation's president, before finally returning to Lebanon. And according to reports Hariri is now at his home in Beirut as Lebanon is set for independence day celebrations on Wednesday.
This is becoming like the Odyssey, will he have to wrestle a multi-headed monster and avoid the Sirens before he goes back home? https://t.co/hWsgytvQah— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) November 19, 2017
Yet since Hariri's over two week long odyssey, regional powers have threatened war resulting in both the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah being placed on "high alert" with Syria also promising to present a united front with Hezbollah should Israel escalate.
And what come's next for Lebanon and the region? Below is a dispatch authored and submitted by Elijah Magnier, Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media, who is currently on the ground in the region and spoke to a high level source and decision maker privy to diplomatic discussions regarding the current crisis.
“It is not a question of war against Hezbollah, Iran or Lebanon, it is a preliminary preparation for an overt Saudi Arabia and Israel relationship.” This is what a decision maker related to the Israeli-Arab-Iran struggle said.
In Yemen, Hezbollah was never present with large numbers: a few dozen advisers were in the country to offer training and shared their long experience gathered during many years of war against Israel and in Syria. Those who formed the Hezbollah special forces were present in Yemen to teach the Zaydi Houthi [Zaydi sect of Shia Islam,, Yemen's rebels] how to defend themselves against the US led coalition and the Saudi continuous aggression...
“Today Yemeni are being exterminated and the world is watching, impotent and numb, allowing Saudi Arabia to destroy the country and kill,” the source said.
However, today there is less need for Hezbollah expertise in Yemen. The resistance has acquireded enough experience and training, fighting in a different environment than Lebanon, Syria or Iraq. There is no need for Hezbollah to stay in Yemen or in Iraq where the “Islamic State” group (ISIS) has been defeated and expelled from every Iraqi city. Today the Iraqis have enough men, advance equipment and huge experience to stand against any danger. Therefore there is no need any more for Iran or Hezbollah or even for the US forces to remain in Mesopotamia.
As for Syria, the source believes that “Hezbollah is in the Levant by the request of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight rejectionist Takfiri, and terrorism. With the city of Albu Kamal under Syria Army control, ISIS has lost the last city in Syria though it still exists east of the Euphrates, in al-Badiya (the Syrian Steppe) and in a few pockets on the Syrian southern borders. There are still thousands of al-Qaeda in Idlib and around al-Hajar al-Aswad and the south of Syria. Therefore, it is only by direct request from the Syrian President that Hezbollah can stay or leave the country. No matter how loud the US, the Israelis and the Arabs scream, Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is linked to the Syrian government and to no one else.”
For Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been liberated from his Saudi "golden jail" and is now returned to Beirut. According to the source “there is no Arab war against Iran in the region or an Israeli war against Lebanon. That doesn’t mean Hezbollah can go home and cease any preparation for a possible future war."
The return of Hariri is obviously linked to a Saudi agenda where he will ask Hezbollah to pull out of Syria, Yemen and Iraq and put down its weapons. It should be noted that Hezbollah supported Hariri’s freedom because he was illegally detained by Saudi Arabia and because he is the Prime Minister of Lebanon. Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to deal with the Lebanon as if it were a Saudi province. And for Hariri it is illusory to believe he is returning to Lebanon as a hero to dictate Saudi policy, that he can implement Saudi Arabia’s wishes, and that he can achieve what the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia failed to obtain.
If indeed he insists on the Saudi agenda, he can return home to Saudi Arabia this time as a defeated former Prime Minister. Saudi Arabia’s vision of the Middle East simply doesn’t apply to the multi-ethnicity and coexistence in Lebanon between all religions and the various political groups and their representations.
It is therefore not a question of Iran or the weapon reserves of Hezbollah or its regional military intervention. The war in Syria was won by the “Axis of the Resistance” and the other side (US, EU, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) has failed to change the regime, to destroy the multi-ethnic culture in Syria, and to tie the hands of the extremists. It is simply a question of Saudi Arabia preparing a wider, overt relationship with Israel.
Saudi Arabia is acting as if it needs this scenario to cover up its future relationship with Israel. Every day, we see Saudi academics, writers and even officials using the excuse “fighting Iran, the common enemy” to justify the forthcoming relationship with Israel. In point of fact Israeli public opinion is ready to welcome Saudi Arabia, and vice versa.
This new Saudi project is clear and won’t fool the Arab in the street. The Arab countries have promised to establish an official relationship with Israel in exchange for the heads of Hezbollah and Iran on a plate. In return the US and Israel promised to engage positively with the Israeli-Arab conflict.
This is no solution for the Israeli-Arab conflict, and Trump can certainly not fulfil his promises. Israel won’t give up to the Arabs what it is getting for free (the relationship with the Gulf countries). Those running to establish ties with Tel Aviv are coming of their own free will in order to use Israel as a bridge to the US. On the other hand, even the new US-Saudi-Israel alliance will be unable to deliver those heads of Iran and Hezbollah without engulfing the region in a global war. Are these countries ready for such a war where the costs outweigh the benefits?