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Gulf Arab Support of Lebanon Waning, Analysts Say

FILE - Staff members of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center unload humanitarian aid at Beirut International Airport following a blast in Lebanon, Aug. 7, 2020. Analysts say Lebanon can no longer count on aid from wealthy Gulf Arab states.

Lebanon should not expect help from Persian Gulf Arab states in bailing the country out from its severe financial and economic woes, according to analysts.

Emile Hokayem, the senior fellow for Middle East Security at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, called past Gulf financial and political investments in Lebanon "costly and bruising," without achieving a clear outcome or benefit.

Instead, Hokayem said, Lebanese politicians "milked those connections for local gains."

"In Saudi [Arabia], but also elsewhere, people realize the Lebanese state nor the Hariri dynasty can do much about Hezbollah's support, for instance, for the Houthis in Yemen — and that goes to the heart of Gulf national security," he said. "Lebanon is also seen increasingly as a source of threat to the Gulf states — whether it's Hezbollah and assumed desire to manipulate and provoke or spy on behalf of the Iranians — I'm describing the perception. There is immense frustration."

Hokayem said that while Lebanese talent "was central to the development of the Gulf states in the past, this is no longer the case" and there is a "generational change" of perception among the Gulf's younger leaders away from their elders, such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who he said have other priorities for their countries and the region.

Still, Paul Salem, president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said he believes diplomacy by France and the incoming Biden administration in the United States could effectively address Lebanon's dire economic and political crisis beyond using sanctions to exert pressure on the country's politicians to bring about change.

"I think we will see a lot of American-French coordination," he said. "They should also figure out not only to have the Europeans and the Americans coordinate, but we must get some of the big Gulf countries back on game. We have to figure out a game that works and we can't do it without the Gulf."

Lebanon's political impasse continues to deepen after a tentative deal on a new prime minister unraveled. The political turmoil has left the country rudderless as it grapples with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.