Lebanon sliding into chaos?

The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has announced on Twitter that he will soon be returning to Beirut. While visiting Riyadh he had announced his resignation in a surprise move, accusing Iran of interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs via Hezbollah, which forms part of the Lebanese national unity government. The press examines the background to these developments.

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L'Orient-Le Jour (LB) /

Riyadh more interested in Yemen

The Lebanese paper L'Orient-Le-Jour explains why Saudi Arabia feels threatened:

“Let's not fool ourselves: the crux of the matter isn't the old debate about Hezbollah's weapons or its involvement in the fighting in Syria, which seems to be coming to an end. No, Saudi Arabia feels most threatened - and betrayed - by Hezbollah's activities in Yemen, the next theatre of the militia's boundless desire for adventure. That's why Lebanon (and its theoretical policy of neutrality) faces a decisive test at the next extraordinary session of the Arab League, which is taking place at Riyadh's insistence and will focus on blocking Tehran's expansionism.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Europe must put Riyadh in its place

Saudi Arabia is putting the fragile peace in Lebanon at risk, taz fears:

“The new strongman in the desert state, young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is irresponsibly escalating the all-encompassing conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in the region. He's acting like a little boy who gets hold of a sword for the first time and waves it around carelessly. ... Lebanon was always a yardstick for the state of the region. But now there's the added factor of a million Syrian refugees. Any kind of shock will jeopardise Lebanon's ability to be a place of refuge. Where will they go instead? To Europe? This question alone should prompt the Europeans to adopt a more robust stance vis-à-vis Riyadh than it has so far.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Russia and the US keeping their hands clean

The US and Russia are pulling the strings in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Daily Sabah believes:

“In a sense, Saudi Arabia is like a ticking bomb that the Pentagon has put into the region. Riyadh's current readiness to intervene militarily in foreign countries like Lebanon proves this fact. The problem is that Tehran will react one way or another. The Saudi-Iran antagonism now has the risk of turning into a direct armed conflict between these two. If that happens, Russia and the U.S. will just sit and watch, keeping their hands clean. Let's hope there are people in Iran and Saudi Arabia who are able to notice that they are just being used and they will make something to prevent further bloodshed between the Muslim nations.”

Almodon (LB) /

Hariri's political manoeuvre

By stepping down Hariri wants to force Hezbollah to make political compromises in Lebanon but the plan has backfired thanks to the Hezbollah leadership's measured response, the Lebanese online portal Almodon writes:

“The idea is to get Hezbollah to rethink the political arrangements that led to the election of the president and the current [national unity] government. ... Whether this political manoeuvre will work is anyone's guess. ... Because what Hariri didn't take into account is Hezbollah's cool-headed, wait-and-see attitude. The party is even showing pity for the PM. It will continue to play a leading role in the country's political and military organisation, as its leaders never stop stressing.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Europe will feel the consequences of escalation

Saudi foreign policy could escalate the situation in the region, warns author Nikolaos A. Biniaris in Efimerida ton Syntakton:

“Saudi Arabia's policy remains first and foremost anti-Iranian. It is clearly aimed at luring the US into cancelling its agreements on the nuclear programme with Iran, pushing it into an open war. The developments in Saudi Arabia are extremely worrying and dangerous for our region. An end to the US-Iran agreement and a new war in the region would lead to a major catastrophe, rising oil prices and economic developments that are detrimental to both the EU and China. The region remains an active volcano with unpredictable, conflict-fuelling consequences. This will lead to more mass migration and economic and socio-political turbulence in Europe.”

Die Presse (AT) /

EU too preoccupied with its own affairs again

The EU's failure to take action to stop the next proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran is reckless, Die Presse complains:

“The Middle East can only become stable if Saudi Arabia and Iran reach a settlement at the negotiating table. The major war that is looming between the Shiites and the Sunni cries out for a Peace of Westphalia solution, but not after 30 years of war. The EU would be the ideal mediator. Austria, too, could play a role. But unfortunately Vienna, Berlin and London are once again too preoccupied with their own affairs. Europe will feel the consequences of its inaction. It wouldn't be the first time.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Colossal frustration in Riyadh

Dagens Nyheter discusses Saudia Arabia's reasons for stirring things up in Lebanon:

“Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is trying to consolidate his rule over Saudi Arabia by eliminating rivals and launching a regional offensive. ... The frustration in the Saudi royal house is colossal. Saudi Arabia is out of the game in Syria, and in Lebanon it has no troops to defeat Hezbollah. One possibility for them to strike out here is the half a million Lebanese who work in the Persian Gulf and whose money shores up the Lebanese budget. Stopping their money transfers would spark chaos in Beirut.”