A Saudi minister took Riyadh’s threatening rhetoric against Hezbollah and Lebanon to new heights, accusing the group of engaging in terrorist activities on Saudi soil.
Thamer al-Sabhan, the state minister for Gulf affairs, said that the Lebanese government will be treated as “declaring war” on Saudi Arabia because of Hezbollah’s “aggression” against the kingdom and its participation in the Lebanese parliament and cabinet.
“The situation is very very sensitive; the situation is very alarming,” al-Sabhan told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi owned pan-Arab TV, this week.
Saudi Arabia supported Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is currently under house arrest, and his allies during years of political conflict in Lebanon with Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The Saudi statements came after an unexpected resignation by Hariri during a formal visit to Saudi Arabia, raising questions on the timing of his announcement and why he chose Riyadh, not Beirut, to inform the world.
Al-Sabhan tweeted after a meeting he attended with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Hariri and a number of Saudi ministers that “Lebanon after the resignation will not be the same prior to it. Lebanon will not be a platform for launching terrorist attacks, its leaders must decide to be leaders of peace or leaders of terrorism.”
End of Taif Agreement?
The recent resignation of Hariri might bring an end to 1989 Taif Agreement, a sectarian power-sharing system curated by Saudi Arabia, which ended a brutal 15-year Lebanese civil war.
According to the agreement, Syria was responsible for overseeing the balance of power among all sectarian groups in Lebanon and managed the Sunni-Shiite rift, a role which was undermined after the assassination of then Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, resulting in the ousting of Syrian troops from Lebanon and accusing Hezbollah of being behind the assassination.
“The Taif Agreement has always been an issue for Hezbollah. The new electoral law was agreed upon by everyone because it brought stability,” Hanin Ghaddar, a Lebanon expert at the Washington Institute, told VOA.
“But even with this electoral law Hezbollah, will be able to control 70 percent of the next parliament which means that Hezbollah will be able to change the constitution, including the Taif Agreement,” Ghaddar said.
A regional war
Following the resignation, Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah made a televised speech on Hezbollah-affiliated TV channel Al-Manar, urging everyone to remain calm and patient.
Nasrallah added that if the resignation of the head of the government sought to unleash an Israeli attack on Lebanon then this will not happen because Israel does not take into consideration an existence of an active Lebanese government in case it decided to attack Lebanon.
“Today, Hezbollah is a regional force,” Ghaddar told VOA, “A war with Hezbollah means a war with Iran, and entering such a war will entail joint efforts by USA, Gulf States and Israel.”
“There should be a strategy to confront Hezbollah and Iran in the entire region,” Ghaddar concluded.