Back in Lebanon and back in power, there remains substantial speculation about Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s November visit to Saudi Arabia, his shock resignation, and subsequent trip to France before being able to get back to Lebanon.
New reports on the timelineseem to support Lebanese official speculation at the time that Hariri had effectively been “captured” by the Saudis and forced to read a pre-written resignation speech. The new reports, which site a number of unnamed Lebanese and Western officials, also offer new insight.
The plan, from the Saudi perspective, was to fuel mass anti-Hezbollah demonstrations in Lebanon, with Hariri’s speech blaming Hezbollah for his leaving office. The demonstrations never happened, however, with Lebanese officials rejecting Hariri’s resignation and angrily demanded the Saudis return him.
On top of all of this, the US and other Western countries apparently got wind of what was happening and rebuked the Saudis privately for destabilizing Lebanon, which ultimately ended with the Saudis reluctantly letting Hariri go to France, and eventually back to Lebanon, where he un-resigned.
Interestingly, Hariri has continued to avoid talking about what happened in Saudi Arabia, including being captured at the airport and held incommunicado by Saudi forces. His family’s private businesses are heavily connected with Saudi Arabia, however, and it may be he doesn’t want to pick a fight, having already dodged being forced from office.