What’s next in Al-Hariri made-in-Iran drama?

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A TRAVELER visited a village for the first time and was shocked to witness a weird scene. The villagers were carrying a dead person to his grave, while he was shouting I am alive... I am alive! All he heard before they buried him was: Shut up and go to sleep! The village court has decided that you are dead!

I remembered this story as I followed the insistence of some Lebanese that Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will, even though he met with heads of state, foreign ministers, ambassadors of the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union, the head of Lebanese church, and many others. He also made a trip during his short stay to the United Arab Emirates, had a live interview with a Lebanese channel, made several calls to Lebanese leaders, including President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and party leaders to tell them all of his decision, his reasoning and why he chose to stay here.

Still, pro-Iran media and politicians kept casting doubts about why he announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia, and stayed there. The president called for his immediate release, threatening to go to the Security Council if he wasn’t returned to Lebanon within a week. While his son-in-law, Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, went on a tour to European capitals and found an ally in German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who called for the Lebanese leader’s freedom!

In a sudden turn of events, the prime minister accepted an official invitation to Paris. You would expect the pro-Iran camp to apologize, or at least accept defeat quietly. Instead they came up with another episode.

They wouldn’t dare to accuse France, the country that gave refuge to Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1970s and, ironically, Aoun himself in 1980, as he run for his life from non other than his new master Hezbollah. So, they had this narrative: France rescued the Saudis by taking him. The Kingdom kept his family hostage. He is a French citizen. As the premier appeared with his family and as the French citizenship was denied, they started looking for something else — who knows what — to implicate Saudi Arabia.

Why are they doing this? The main goal is to change the subject. The prime minister has accused Iran and its agent, Hezbollah, of dominating his country, hijacking his people, and destroying the economy. By using Lebanon as a lunching pad for terrorist activities, drug trade and money laundering, they complicated his government relations with the world and its Arab neighbors and allies. Under Hezbollah’s guns and Iran’s threats to assassinate him, like they did with his father, he was unable to fulfill his duties as prime minister, or to protect himself and family. Therefore, Al-Hariri decided to leave with wife and children soon after meeting with top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, who reportedly threatened Al-Hariri with elimination if he doesn’t accept Hezbollah as the de-facto ruler.

As these issues were raised by the prime minister, in his resignation speech, what better than inventing some dramatic stories to redirect the blame toward Saudi Arabia, and erase the real talking points from the media shows and public discourse?

Another goal is getting Al-Hariri back to Beirut, under Hezbollah iron fist, probably to take him hostage, in case Saudi Arabia and its allies decided to strike them.

After an official visit to Egypt, today, Al-Hariri is retuning, tonight, to Beirut, as its prime minister — since his resignation was not accepted — to attend Lebanon’s Independence Day, tomorrow (Wednesday). He would submit his resignation, in person, to the president and parliament, according to the Constitution.

I hope and expect that he would receive international protection, probably with the US and French escort. During his visit, which I reckon to be short, he would explain his reasons and may discuss with concerned officials, in the government and parliament, the formation of a new Cabinet. Then, he would return back to Saudi Arabia, which he holds its citizenship — or France, a favorite home of his family — where he would feel safe and welcome.

It is a matter of days, before this episode reaches its finale, then we are on to the real issue of Iran’s misbehavior and destructive policies. No matter how long the rogue nation may distract the world from the subject, we will always turn around to put it under the searching light. It is just can’t be hidden or avoided, and the world is much smarter and determined than Iran wishes it to be.

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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