By Mohammad mazhari

S. Arabia playing destructive role in Lebanon: analyst

February 8, 2021 - 21:23

TEHRAN - In an attempt to undermine Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia has been playing a vicious role in Lebanon, a Lebanese military analyst says.

“There is no doubt that recently Saudi Arabia played an overt destructive role in relation to Lebanon, especially after it considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Omar Maarabouni tells the Tehran Times. 

Over the last week, hundreds of Lebanese people poured into the streets to denounce the lack of economic aid despite a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which has forced almost all businesses to close and almost everyone to remain at home.

While people’s demands have been mostly economic, some Lebanese figures, backed by Saudi Arabia, are trying to politicize any movement or protest.  

According to Maarabouni, the Saudi moves in Lebanon “led to an escalation of the situation in the Lebanese political scene and internal rift which resulted in more economic pressures.”

“Saudi Arabia, along with the United States of America and many countries, help to put pressure on the Lebanese economy in a close collaboration with a team in Lebanon, a team that has been controlling for a long time the basic financial and economic centers, especially the banking sector,” the Lebanese expert notes.

The following is the text of the interview:


Q: Which regions in Lebanon witnessed protests and what were the causes?

A: In fact, almost most regions of the country have been witnessing protests since October 17, 2019.

Of course, these protests were motivated for purely socio-economic reasons, and therefore at the beginning of the protests, we saw a real flow of people who came to the streets and raised slogans and demanding a better economic situation.

These protests continued for a month until the emergence of a group of politicians who tried to divert the demands, with different political motives, whether internally or externally.

Q: Do you see any track of foreign interference in the recent events in Lebanon? 

A: Yes, foreign interference in Lebanon is clear and obvious. The recent protests in Lebanon started after Pompeo's visit in March 2019 to Beirut, during which he met with Lebanese officials, especially the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun. 

At the time, the American minister made five demands from Lebanon, on top of which was the privatization of the public sector and meeting the conditions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which if implemented, will lead to the collapse of the state.

The second item was establishing a form of cooperation between Lebanon and the Zionist regime with regard to the management of two disputed sub-sea gas fields via indirect negotiations in the southern maritime domain.

The third item was the integration of the displaced Syrians into the Lebanese society, and this is impossible and unenforceable because it will certainly change the Lebanese demography, and at the same time it may be used as a pressure card on Lebanon and the Syrian government.

The fourth item was finding the final settlement for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, of course with the aim of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or using it as a tool to undermine the Palestinian cause.

The fifth item was related to the government formation without Hezbollah participation. But this is impossible because Hezbollah is an integral part of Lebanese society. Therefore, based on these five demands, we were facing a series of pressures that reached the point of declaring an unannounced siege on Lebanon and sanctions against the Lebanese state, not to mention sanctions announced on multiple Lebanese figures.

Q: What are the main obstacles that hinder the formation of government in Lebanon?

A: Regarding the issue of government formation, I do not think that things will proceed as the Lebanese hope, as the matter is surrounded by many complications, problems, and conflicts. 

Hence, I do not expect a smooth path to form a government in the near future at the minimum. The only agenda that has been discussed is the French initiative, which was stopped when it failed to create an understanding or remove barriers or alleviate concerns of all Lebanese parties, due to the composition of the Lebanese society and political disputes.

Q: What is the role of Saudi Arabia in the economic crisis in Lebanon? Is it a kind of blackmail?

A: There is no doubt that recently Saudi Arabia has been playing an overt negative role in relation to Lebanon, especially after it considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

This measure led to an escalation in the Lebanese political scene and internal rift which resulted in more economic pressures. Saudi Arabia, along with the United States of America and many countries, helps to put pressure on the Lebanese economy in close collaboration with a team in Lebanon, a team that has been controlling for a long time the basic financial and economic centers, especially the banking sector. 

On this basis, it can be said that the process of extortion is continuing by Saudi Arabia, especially as it has set out a series of conditions to help Lebanon out of the crisis.

Q: What are Lebanon’s plans to counter the poverty crisis and contain the spread of COVID-19?

A: This question cannot be answered scientifically because the Lebanese government, with all its components, has been absent for a long time.
 It is quite known that Lebanon has been living in a state of “vertical division” since 2005, after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and thus this situation has negatively affected all aspects of the government and management in the country.

Nevertheless, there is a basic factor, which is the rampant corruption within the Lebanese government, which at this time led to a socio-economic disaster. As a result, the government went bankrupt and the banks have started seizing people's assets and money, and the country is in a state of quarrel and bitter political conflict.

Some studies estimated that the poverty crisis will keep rising to include 80 percent of the Lebanese people by the end of 2021.

Of course, this will affect managing the health crisis when it comes to the Coronavirus, which we can say is inevitable with regard to the bad political and economic reality in the country.

We cannot expect the Lebanese Ministry of Health more than that, especially since the political quarrels intensified the Corona crisis and yielded negative results with dangerous repercussions.

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