Home Global News Lebanon PM's Return Heightens Unpredictability in Volatile Region

Lebanon PM's Return Heightens Unpredictability in Volatile Region

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By Christopher Prawdzik
Homeland 411

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reversed his plans to resign as he returned to Lebanon on Nov. 22, punctuating an already volatile November with abundant uncertainty throughout the region. Hariri previously announced from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4, his plans to step down as Lebanon’s prime minister citing, among other things, Iran’s influence in the region.

The reversal adds a new twist to a saga that has continued for weeks. It’s not a simple scenario, and is one that impacts the entire region from the eastern Mediterranean across southwest Asia. Several analysts around Washington spoke with Homeland411 before Hariri’s decision to return, all noting the complexity of this ever-evolving situation.

Clare Lopez, vice president for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy, cited a possible re-energized Sunni-Shiite split in the region.

“I think this goes back again to Saudi Arabia, because what the Saudis are seeing, of course, is a resurgent, very aggressive, belligerent regime in Tehran solidifying a Shiite crescent … surrounding the Arabian peninsula with its proxies and puppet regimes,” Lopez said. It includes everything from Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Beirut to Damascus, across to Tehran, through Baghdad, and then Yemen.

The same day Hariri resigned, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Saudi Arabia that was intercepted over Riyadh. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN the missile was Iranian, launched by Hezbollah operating in a Houthi-controlled portion of Yemen.

“Lebanon is going to be perhaps the next focus—unfortunately for the Lebanese people—of the intra-Islamic, 1,400-year-old sectarian fight,” Lopez said.

Peter Mandaville, professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Homeland411 that if the Saudis orchestrated Hariri’s resignation, it’s a message for Iran.

“It’s a way for Riyadh, for Saudi Arabia, to signal to Iran that, ‘Hey, if you Iranians think that you call the shots in Lebanon, we are the ones who actually have the ability to directly shape and control the government in that country,’” Mandaville said.

Read the full article at Homeland411.

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