Things that Go Bump in the Night in Riyadh
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Hariri’s resignation, the Saudi purge, and the Houthi missile fired at Riyadh are interconnected.
Saturday night was a busy one for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom’s 32-year old heir to the throne excelled himself. He surpassed the high levels of chaos and human misery he had already achieved as the defence minister who launched the air campaign on Yemen.
First up was the sudden resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after just one year in office. Hariri made his announcement from Riyadh, which is a curious place to resign the premiership of Lebanon. His speech was hardline anti-Hezbollah and anti-Iran, setting a tone not heard from him in years.
A few days before he gave no indication that he was under the threat of assassination, as he claimed in his speech. He allowed airport workers to take selfies with him, and left Lebanon in a sunny and optimistic mood.
Hariri thought he had survived the pressure which had been applied last year on his construction company Saudi Oger, which was facing bankruptcy, and a meeting with Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan went well.
Al-Sabhan tweeted that the two agreed on “many things that are of interest”. But the minister’s tone changed rapidly after Hariri’s resignation. He then tweeted: “The hands of treachery and aggression must be amputated,” referring to Hezbollah and Iran.
The well informed but anonymous Saudi commentator, who uses the Twitter handle Mujtahidd, discounted the theory that Hariri felt under threat of assassination from Iran. He said the Lebanese premier was under greater physical threat from the Islamic State group.
Mujtahidd said Hariri emerged from his latest talks with Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian supreme leader’s senior international affairs adviser, in good spirits.
Read the full article by David Hearst on Middle East Eye, November 6, 2017.