Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, has called on the Information Minister, George Kordahi, to “listen to his conscience, take the position that should be taken and give priority to national interests.” This was a hint at the need for the Minister to resign from his position due to comments made by Kordahi that have worsened relations between Lebanon and member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). His comments were about the war in Yemen and have led to Saudi Arabia banning all Lebanese imports, not allowing its citizens to travel to Lebanon, and calling its ambassador home in late October 2021. The same day, the Kingdom of Bahrain dismissed the Lebanese ambassador from their country. Similar actions have been taken by Kuwait and the UAE.
The comments made by Kordahi included saying that the war in Yemen was “futile” and needed to end and also implied that the Saudi-led coalition was an “external aggression” against which the Houthis, a local rebel political party, have had to fight. These comments offended Saudi Arabia, leading to their response. Although the comments were made before Kordahi became a member of the government, the repercussions of these words are just as strong. There has been a division in the Lebanese government following these comments, with some ministers supporting Kordahi and others feeling he needs to resign from his position. This has led to the government not meeting for three weeks, and Prime Minister Mikati has emphasized: “the need for the government to resume work to make up for a wasted time.”
The consequences of Saudi Arabia banning Lebanese imports are severe on the already fragile Lebanese economy, as Saudi Arabia is the third-largest importer of Lebanese goods. Lebanon is already in the midst of a severe socio-economic crisis, with 75% of the population in need of assistance. This has been made worse by civil unrest, government corruption, the Beirut explosion in 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on the Lebanese crisis can be found on Organization for World Peace Crisis Index Page at https://theowp.org/crisis_index/lebanon-crisis/. It is essential for Lebanon to restore government meetings and to improve relations with members of the GCC to avoid worsening this crisis. Although many supporters of Kordahi argue that what he has said is not worthy of him being forced to resign, Prime Minister Mikati has a solid point in arguing that the choice is the best for national interests.
There are ethical issues with the argument for Kordahi to resign based on statements that were said before entering government, and that was his personal opinion. However, given the current circumstances, his choice to not resign is negatively impacting the political and economic environment in Lebanon. The choice Kordahi makes in response to this call from Prime Minister Mikati will significantly impact the ability of the Lebanese government to restore relations with other GCC countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, and to not see a worsening of socio-economic standing. The outcomes of this will also impact peace relations between Lebanon and members of the GCC, as well as within Lebanon, due to the likely worsening of already existing civil unrest.
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