News / Middle East

Hariri Back in Lebanon for First Time in 3 Years

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri gestures upon his arrival at the government's headquarters in Beirut, August 8, 2014.
Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri gestures upon his arrival at the government's headquarters in Beirut, August 8, 2014.
Reuters

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri returned home on Friday for the first time in three years, on a visit seen as reasserting his leadership over the Sunni community following a deadly incursion by Islamist militants in northeast Lebanon.

Hariri, Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician, has been in self-imposed exile since 2011, sharing his time between France and Saudi Arabia. He left Lebanon after his government was toppled by a coalition including the Iranian-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah.

With no prior announcement, Hariri arrived at the Lebanese government's headquarters in Beirut, where he met Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

The Saudi-backed politician arrived in a Mercedes with blacked-out windows at the central courtyard of the Grand Serail and grinned widely as he walked into the building.

Hariri earlier this week announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $1 billion in military aid to Lebanese security forces to help them in the fight against extremists.

“My return comes after the Saudi donation which requires seeing how it can be implemented and translated into support for the army,” Hariri said on his Twitter account.

The Twitter account also said Hariri's first stop would be at the grave of his father, Rafik al-Hariri, another former Lebanese prime minister whose assassination in 2005 forced Saad to enter political life.

He blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bomb attack in Beirut that killed his father. A special tribunal in the Netherlands has been trying four members of Hezbollah in absentia for the killing.

The group, an ally of Assad, denies any involvement.

Sunni violence

Hariri's visit follows a deadly incursion by Islamist militants who crossed from Syria and seized the Sunni town of Arsal in the northeast last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of battles with the army.

The incursion by militants, including fighters affiliated to Islamic State which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, marked the most serious spillover to date of the three-year-old Syrian conflict.

Assad cracked down on Syria's pro-democracy movement in 2011 in a move that has led to a full-scale civil war pitting Sunni rebels against Assad's Alawite sect and Shi'ite fighters which has also had ramifications for tiny neighboring Lebanon.

Rocket fire, suicide attacks and gun battles connected to Syria's war have plagued Lebanon and the conflict has worsened the perennial political deadlock in the Mediterranean country, with officials divided largely along sectarian lines.

The deadlock has left Lebanon without a president since May, when incumbent Michel Suleiman's term expired.

The coastal city of Tripoli has seen regular skirmishes between Sunni and Alawite militiamen. Firebrand Sunni clerics such as Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir have rallied Sunnis to fight the Beirut government, which includes Hezbollah members.

“There has been, in the last three years, a vacuum that has formed in the Sunni community. This was becoming increasingly dangerous because this community was becoming more and more radicalized,” said Michael Young, a political commentator.

“[Hariri's] return is probably an effort with the Saudis to reassert a certain amount of control over the Sunni community.”  

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More