18:04 GMT +320 November 2017
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    Lebanon in Limbo: Saad Hariri Steps Down

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    Andrew Korybko
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    Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his countrymen and rocked Mideast geopolitics by announcing his resignation while on a trip to Saudi Arabia, throwing the stereotypically dysfunctional state back into limbo at precisely the moment that observers thought that it was finally stabilizing.

    The shaky power-sharing alliance between Hariri's Future Movement, Hezbollah, and President Michel Aoun — representing Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians, respectively, as per the "confessionalist" arrangement enshrined in Lebanon's post-civil war constitution — is now in danger of unraveling. Nobody could have predicted that this would happen, and some say not even Hariri himself, who a few commentators noted appeared to be caught completely unaware by what many people are assuming was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's personal order for him to step down.

    The situation is made all the more tense because Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan said that Lebanon had "declared war" on his Kingdom because of its support for Hezbollah, which is allied with Saudi Arabia's archrival Iran. Facing imminent defeat in the proxy battlefields of "Syraq", Saudi Arabia might have wanted to inflict an asymmetrical blow to Iranian interests by destabilizing the situation in Lebanon through what might have been Hariri's forced resignation, but even if this speculation is an accurate reflection of events, it doesn't mean that it'll automatically succeed. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah urged his countrymen to remain calm and not overreact, emanating a much-needed aura of stability and statesmanship at this crucial time, and emphasized that his political party didn't want to see Hariri resign because Hezbollah had finally entered into pragmatic working relations with him.

    Nasrallah said that he personally believed that Hariri was forced to resign under Saudi pressure, but he assured everyone that Riyadh won't be successful in destabilizing Lebanon. President Aoun also chimed in on the same day to say that he won't act on Hariri's resignation until he returns to the country to explain himself. Although Hariri claimed that he stepped down while abroad because he feared that Iran was plotting to assassinate him back home, the Lebanese Armed Forces confirmed that they had no knowledge whatsoever about any potential threat to his life, throwing into question the former Prime Minister's entire narrative and adding credence to the suspicions that it was Saudi Arabia which is behind this political crisis.

    Hadi Abdalhadi Alijla, political scientist specializing in the Middle East, director for Institute for Middle East Studies, Canada, and director for the Gulf Countries at Varieties of Democracy Institute at Gothenburg University, and Afraa Dagher, Syrian political activist, commented on the issue.

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    Tags:
    Saad Hariri, Gulf States, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia
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