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Hizbullah Rejects Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Resignation

Referring to the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on November 3, 2017, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah labeled the action as a “Saudi-imposed decision.” Hizbullah and Iran expressed the desire to maintain the stability of the regime and the calm in Lebanon.

Hizbullah leader Nasrallah (left) and Saad Hariri (right)

Hizbullah leader Nasrallah (left) and Saad Hariri (right)

Nasrallah questioned the credibility of Hariri’s announcement of the resignation, which was issued in Saudi Arabia. Nasrallah heavily hinted that the message was dictated to Hariri by Saudi Arabia and that the words the Hariri used did not reflect the language of the Lebanese prime minister. This was Saudi and not Lebanese rhetoric, Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah ignored the published reports that there was a plan to assassinate Hariri in Lebanon. Nasrallah stressed that he had no information that could explain what was behind Hariri’s resignation at this time. Nasrallah revealed that after Hariri returned from a previous visit to Saudi Arabia, he told the members of his government that Saudi Arabia supports stability, security in Lebanon, and the continuation of the government under his leadership. Therefore, everyone, including in his own party, was surprised by his resignation announcement. Moreover, there have been no recent indications that Hariri prepared or planned to resign, Nasrallah said. All of Hariri’s statements attested to the continuation of his future plans as prime minister.

Therefore, Nasrallah stressed, the decision to resign was a Saudi one imposed on the Lebanese prime minister. Nasrallah wondered if Saudi Arabia was holding Hariri against his will and whether Hariri was not permitted to return to Lebanon. All this maneuvering was part of the power struggle occurring within the Saudi royal court, a struggle in which the Lebanese prime minister found himself – against his will, Nasrallah asserted.

Nasrallah noted that both President Michel Aoun and Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri are doing their jobs without any problems and await the prime minister’s return from Saudi Arabia – that is “if he is allowed to return.” Thus, Nasrallah rejected Hariri’s resignation and is determined that the present Lebanese government continues. This was reinforced by the remarks made by President Aoun, who made it clear that he did not intend to take any further steps as would be required by the Hariri announcement until he personally met him and heard directly from him.

Hariri (left) and Michel Aoun in 2016

Hariri (left) and Michel Aoun in 2016

The main significance of Nasrallah and President Aoun’s remarks is that the Lebanese government is not disintegrating in light of the announcement of Hariri’s resignation. However, it is clear that in the absence of the current prime minister a large question mark was cast on the continued stability of the Lebanese government, which could plunge Lebanon into a state of unrest and renewed inter-ethnic struggle, mainly between the Sunnis and the Shiites.

It is reasonable to assume that Hizbullah, with the support of Iran, will make a great effort to prevent these developments.  Such actions could open the door to the strengthening of the Salafi Sunni elements, some of whom are influenced by what is happening in Syria and will be supported by Saudi Arabia, which could ignite sectarian strife in Lebanon.

About Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. He edited the Jerusalem Center eBook Iran: From Regional Challenge to Global Threat.
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