Senators offer competing views on Lebanese PM’s resignation

WASHINGTON – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation during a trip in Saudi Arabia on Saturday stunned many political analysts in Beirut and across the region. “Iran has a strong desire to destroy the Arab world,” Hariri charged. “Iran controls the region and the decision-making in both Syria and Iraq.”

Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) told Jewish Insider on Thursday that Tehran was to blame for the political turmoil in Lebanon. “Iran has been seeking and creating mischief and causing problems for all governments in the entire Middle East,” he explained. “It’s nothing new. Hezbollah relies on them (Iran) for the resources necessary to continue the battle. This is really about Iran continuing to extend their ability to influence other governments in that region.”

Hariri warned that his life was in danger. In 2005, his father, former PM Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in Beirut. A United Nations tribunal indicted Hezbollah members for the killing in 2011. Iran is Hezbollah’s chief sponsor and both have fought together to shore up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rob Portman (R-OH) emphasized that he “agreed” with Hariri’s assessment. “With a solution coming in Syria, my concern is that they (Hezbollah) will redirect more attention into Lebanon. Iran is a supporter of terrorism.”

Yet, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who has met Hariri multiple times, urged for caution. While noting that he is trying to further investigate the true causes of his resignation, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee added, “maybe there was another reason that he stepped down.”

On Thursday, Reuters reported that multiple senior Lebanese government officials believe that Hariri is being detained in Saudi Arabia. Keeping Hariri with restricted freedom in Riyadh is an attack on Lebanese sovereignty. We will work with (foreign) states to return him to Beirut,” said a top Lebanese official.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats appeared to fault Saudi Arabia for the crisis. “I am very worried about what’s going on, what the Saudi’s intent is, and I think it would be a very bad move to destabilize Lebanon,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “We ought to be very clear that the US does not support any efforts to do that and to let the Saudis know that.”

President Donald Trump has provided Riyadh with enthusiastic support during the past week. On Monday, he tweeted, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.

The location for Hariri’s announcement was troubling for Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). “The resignation is extremely suspicious that he would resign on a trip to Saudi Arabia rather than in Lebanon. The press in the region is speculating that he may be in some sort of detention,” said the 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential candidate. “Iran and Saudi Arabia’s proxy war is crushing people in this region.”

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