Beirut in the eye of the storm


The resignation of Saad Al-Hariri less than a year after being elected prime minister of Lebanon came as no surprise to many observers of the political scene. There are many overlapping domestic, regional and international factors that can be reflected in the following points.

Firstly, fragile government and grave crisis:

State institutions in Lebanon were almost paralyzed by the failure of the two dominant Lebanese parties, March 8 Alliance and March 14 Alliance, to agree on the election of a president. In an attempt to put an end to the two-year-long presidential vacuum, spare Lebanon from regional crises and resume political life, Hariri and his political team came to accept Hezbollah’s first candidate, Michel Aoun. Hence, a fragile deal was agreed, whereby the former would be named prime minister and the latter would be appointed president until new parliamentary elections were held. The deal came into effect on the 11th of November 2016 and lasted no longer than a year, collapsing as soon as the resignation was declared.

When President Aoun visited Saudi Arabia in an attempt to restore normal relations between the two states after a deadlock period, I wrote an article titled “The Lebanese – Saudi Summit: What to Expect”. The article said: “The major challenge facing President Aoun posterior to the visit is his ability to convince Hezbollah to spare Lebanon and the Lebanese community from further tensions in their relations with the Arab world and the Gulf states”. It also stated: “The shift in the Lebanese stand does not indicate its political independence. It is rather a temporary shift imposed by the surrounding circumstances during the past two years. Such circumstances forced Iran, Hezbollah and pro-Iran groups in Lebanon to compromise on some issues”. This is exactly what is happening.

Secondly, the deep-rooted crisis and the edge of blast:

What we see these days is repercussions of a crisis that goes back to the fact that the Lebanese crisis is deeply rooted in the structure of the regime itself. The regime suffers from political sectarianism enshrined in the 1926 constitution, which in turn led to institutional sag, especially in security institutions, caused by sub-state loyalties that serve as substitute institutions to the state. The weakness of the state allowed foreign intervention that poses restrictions on any deterrence by the state, which resulted in institutional paralysis.

Thirdly, new strategy to curb Iran:

Last October, President Trump declared a new strategy to curb the Iranian destabilizing policies in the region and to end its support for terrorism. Hezbollah is Iran’s most destructive tool in the region. Via Beirut, the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Forces move arms, ideological supplies and influence to Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the Gulf states in order to undermine political stability and social harmony. In addition, Lebanon has become a training center used by Hezbollah to train other militias in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Gulf states in order to be re-exported for political instability in those countries. Directed by Iran, Hezbollah intervened in Syria to back Assad, in Yemen to back the Houthis, in Iraq and in the Gulf states. Consequently, the said countries became a front line for the extended Iranian military and economic influence through Hezbollah and Iran’s other arms.

Fourthly, saving the national state from collapse:

The current regional crises known as the “Arab Spring” have cost the region around $614 billion and over 1.3 million dead and wounded since 2011. Most importantly, the crises disintegrated nation-states in the affected countries, which in turn made them a fertile ground for many terrorist organizations such as Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS). These organizations took advantage of the political instability to start and expand in the region. They turned the affected countries into springboards to target the world in an attempt to re-form the region and the world by wiping out existing internationally recognized borders and destroying nation-states and the whole modern system of international relations.

Therefore, Hariri’s resignation is just a new chapter in the attempt to reorganize the region by strengthening the national state and the central authority and restoring security and stability.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin