World

Lebanon PM Resigns, Bringing Saudi-Iran Proxy Conflict to the Fore

Lebanon PM Resigns, Bringing Saudi-Iran Proxy Conflict to the Fore

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has resigned, saying in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia that he feared for his life, while also fiercely criticising Iran.

In his resignation speech, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said that "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off".

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Hariri's departure was a plot to "create tension in Lebanon and the region".

"I felt what was being covertly plotted to target my life", he said.

An official at the US State Department said it was following the situation closely and noted that Hariri had been a "strong partner in building strong national state institutions and in the war on terror".

Iran and Hezbollah are both Shiite forces in the Muslim world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hariri's resignation and comments "are a wake-up call to the global community to take action against the Iranian aggression that is trying to turn Syria into Lebanon 2".

Hezbollah members have been accused over the 2005 assassination in a massive auto bomb blast of Rafik Hariri, the dominant figure in Lebanon's post-war political landscape.

Born in Saudi Arabia, Hariri was running the family's vast Oger construction firm in the kingdom when his father was assassinated in February 2005.

"The Saudi Arabia-Iranian rivalry now is going to play out on Lebanon's streets in the next few days and next few weeks".

The February 2005 assassination triggered political upheaval that led to Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon.

But his decision in 2016 to back a presidential bid by his rival, Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun, showed his comfort with Lebanon's treacherous political landscape.

A Saudi government minister said Hariri was in Riyadh to ensure his safety. "It's part of an all-out Saudi confrontation with Iran", he said.

Kamel Wazne, a Lebanese political analyst, described the resignation as "a surprise coup by all measures".

After his father's death, Hariri went on to the Future bloc (al-Mustaqbal), which draws its support mainly from the country's Sunni population, and which later formed alliances with other parties from across Lebanon's communal divide.

Hariri's bombshell resignation - even close aides seemed unaware of the announcement - ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability.

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Mr Hariri's accusations as "unfounded".

Under a power-sharing system that helped end Lebanon's 15-year civil war, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.


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