By Javad Heirannia

Saudis are treating Hariri with scorn and like a lackey: Shireen Hunter

November 22, 2017

TEHRAN - Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, tells the Tehran Times that that “It is quite obvious that Hariri has resigned because of Saudi Pressure. Hariri, like his father Rafiq, is close to Saudi Arabia, and the family made their fortune there.”

She adds that “However, Saad does not have his father's stature. Therefore, the Saudis are treating him with scorn and like a lackey.”
Following is the text the interview:

Q: What are the reasons behind Hariri's sudden resignation declared from Riyadh?

A: The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri form Saudi Arabia is directly linked to the changing strategy of the United States and Israel in the Middle East. The U.S. appears to be resuming the transformative policy of George Bush in the Middle East that Obama abandoned. This time the goal is to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, establish relations between Israel and the remaining Arab states, eliminate Iran's influence and presence form Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East, and possibly launch military strikes against Iran. The latter option is favored by Israel and Saudi Arabia and some Gulf Arabs such as UAE and Bahrain.
Hariri resignation is the prelude to creating conditions that might drive Iran to react and thus provide an opportunity for attack against it.
However, although President Trump seems to support Saudi Arabia, others in America believe that this is a risky strategy. This is why Secretary Rex Tillerson has reassured the Lebanese that America wants stability in that country. The question is how far Saudi Arabia and Israel will go to drag the U.S. into another Middle East war.

Q: One of the reasons as to why Hariri resigned is to make Lebanon instable because the country's situation was not in line with the Interests of Saudi Arabia. What's your opinion? 

A: It is quite obvious that Hariri has resigned because of Saudi Pressure. Hariri, like his father Rafiq, is close to Saudi Arabia, and the family made their fortune there. However, Saad does not have his father's stature. Therefore, the Saudis are treating him with scorn and like a lackey. His resignation is also part of Saudi efforts to control Lebanese politics and to counter Iran's influence.

Q: Saudi Arabia wants other Arab countries to be aligning with Riyadh's policies. That's why we see such crisis in Qatar and Lebanon. Now the question is how much the other Arab countries will tolerate Saudi pressure. Shall we expect new coalitions within Arab world against Saudis?

A: At the moment, Saudi Arabia through its money and the American support is the most influential actor in the Arab world. Other major Arab states, like Egypt, have lost their past position and influence, Iraq and Syria are nearly destroyed and therefore Saudi Arabia has no real rival any more. Therefore, it is unlikely that anyone will stand up to Saudi Arabia in defense of Lebanon. Moreover, these Arabs also share Saudi Arabia's anti-Iran and anti-Shia sentiments. As a result they will be happy to see Hizbollah and Iran's influence is eroded in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the same governments cannot be happy with the arrogance with which Saudi Arabia treats other Arab states. Therefore, in the long run, the Hariri episode might be damaging to Saudi Arabia.

Q: With regard to recent developments, how do you see the future of Lebanon? Will the 14 March movement be able to keep its political role in the country?

A: The Al Mustaqbil represents the Sunni Lebanese. Therefore, either in its current shape or in a modified format, it will continue to play a significant role in Lebanese politics. However, the Sunni leadership's reputation could suffer because of their image as subservient to the Saudis and following Saudi rather than Lebanese interests.

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