Between Riyadh and Beirut

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Lebanon has always been an arena of confrontations; used by the Nasserites for a time against the opposite Arab axis. After that, Lebanon came under the control of Palestinian militants who were serving the agenda of the two conflicting Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq. After Israel expelled them in 1982, Iran infiltrated Lebanon and took control of the country, thus gaining a foothold on the Mediterranean and a front with Israel in the context of their regional rivalry.

In the midst of the decades-long political conflict, Lebanon’s tragedy snowballed and became particularly linked with Hezbollah, which expanded its activities as an Iranian outpost and mobile military militia in Iranian conflict areas such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

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Over the years, and as a result of the increasing dominance of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the middle class shrank, Arab and foreign investors left, talent migrated to the Gulf and to the West, exports, banks and tourism collapsed, more than a million people lost their savings, and conditions and services from electricity to garbage collection deteriorated as a result of the imposition of international sanctions, particularly sanctions by the US Treasury and State Departments under the Caesar Act, as well as the Magnitsky Act and anti-terror laws, against Hezbollah and Lebanon.

Hezbollah also obstructed Lebanon's opportunity to become a gas-rich country by disrupting the file of demarcating the maritime border with Israel.

The Saudi move to withdraw its ambassador, as a result of a drawn-out crisis due to Hezbollah's anti-Saudi activities, as the militia fights in Yemen and leads battles under the guise of experts and technicians. As for the statements by Minister of Information George Kordahi, they do not warrant a response in and of themselves. Riyadh is above being affected by the statements of a minister of no standing in his own country itself, Lebanon. Perils are mounting for Lebanon because Iran has turned it into a battlefront state. Hezbollah militias fight in the region as an Iranian proxy and conduct military and intelligence operations.

Iran has turned Lebanon into a center for running its regional and international battles, as it has assigned Hezbollah a series of tasks to serve its forces in Iraq, and to manage the media campaign of the Houthi militia from inside the Southern Suburb, through channels such as Al Masirah television station. Iran also runs human rights organizations and research centers in order to harness all it can to its benefit. In addition, Hezbollah uses Lebanon as a base for supporting the war in Syria; for training, financing and storage, and the Beirut port explosion happened at its warehouses for storing nitrates used in the war in Syria. Further, Hezbollah has turned Lebanon into a capacious drug farm that exports its produce to "enemy markets."

For the Lebanese, the Saudi government was clear in its statement that it differentiated between the Lebanese people and their government, comparing them to the Yemenis who are not held accountable for the actions of the coup-driven Houthis in Sanaa. At the same time the decision was made to expel the Lebanese ambassador from Saudi Arabia and summon the Saudi ambassador from Beirut, Lebanese singers continued to perform on stages in Riyadh, alongside other international artists.

Amid the darkness in Lebanon, there is little hope of reforming Saudi-Lebanese relations in the presence of Hezbollah and its current government, which poses as a problem for the Lebanese first and foremost, before anybody else.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Read more:

Saudi FM: No crisis with Lebanon, but rather crisis in Lebanon due to Iran's proxies

Lebanon ministers hold crisis meeting over dispute with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia expels Lebanese ambassador to Riyadh, recalls ambassador from Beirut

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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