Hariri Announces Shock Resignation, Raising Prospects Of Potential Political Turmoil In Lebanon And Beyond

Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned as Prime Minister of Lebanon this past Saturday, citing Iran’s influence in his country and across the Middle East, whilst also claiming he feared the same fate as late father, Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in 2005.  His speech, which was broadcast from the Saudi Arabia, specifically accused Iran of wanting to “destroy the Arab world” and boasting “of its control of the decisions in all the Arab capitals. Hezbollah imposed a reality in Lebanon through force of arms, and their intervention causes us big problems with all our Arab allies.” Iran and its followers, he said, will “lose in its interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries.” These words and the resignation itself have caught many observers by surprise, including Mr Hariri’s government and staff back in Beirut. It also, effectively brings to an end an uneasy 11-month unity-government that had largely failed to impose authority on a parliament split along regional lines. Of the followers in question, Mr Harriri was most certainly referring to Hezbollah, a Shiite militant-turned-political group, with he shared power as part of the aforementioned unity-government. In a country which is already plagued by corruption and a poorly-performing economy, news of the resignation will do little to dispel fears of further instability.

To make matters worse, the timing and location of the announcement has led some observers to suggest that other factors (beyond the ones listed by Mr Hariri in his televised speech) may be behind the surprise move from the now-former Lebanese Prime Minister. In light of the fact that the announcement took place amid growing tensions between Saudi Arabia—Mr Hariri’s backers—and its regional rival Iran, that notion doesn’t seem too farfetched. Crucially, it has been said that the US and its allies in the Middle East now fear that Iran is months away from securing unprecedented influence in the region, owing to its military victories against ISIS in recent times. Bearing in mind that the resignation speech takes place amid growing anti-Iran rhetoric from the Trump administration. All of which is worsened by a recent leak of declassified CIA documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s hideout in 2011, appearing to suggest Iranian-al Qaeda collusion. Taken all together, these facts lend credence to the argument that Lebanon could now become battleground between pro and anti-Iran alliances.  

And things are likely to heat up considering some of the language being used by some officials in the region. For example, Thamer al-Sabhan, the Saudi minister for Gulf Affairs (who is a vocal critic of Iran) tweeted: “The hands of treachery and aggression will be cut off.” This was shortly after the televised announcement was made. Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, joined the chorus, calling Mr Hariri’s resignation a “wake up call for the international community to take action against the Iranian government.” The latter’s comments, it should be noted, come a few days after he warned  that Israel was prepared for confrontation to ensure Iran did not have room to “Lebanon-ise Syria economically and militarily.” Israel, owing to its geography and history with Lebanon, has a keen interest in seeing Iran play a more limited role in that country and in the region as a whole. It is also acutely aware of the strategic gains made by Iran in Syria, in addition to its involvement in proxy-wars in Yemen. Much like Saudi Arabia, it may see events in Lebanon as enough of a justification to engage in military confrontation

Meanwhile in Iran, the response has also been one of defiance—unsurprising given the level of rhetoric that all sides have been engaged in over the past few months. Hossein Sheikholeslam, an adviser to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, who was quoted by Iranian news agency Fars, claimed that Mr Hariri’s resignation “was planned by the Americans to make up for their losses after ISIL was defeated in the region.” Another Iranian official, Bahram Ghasemi, disputed Mr Hariri’s allegations against Iran, calling them “unreal and baseless”, while adding that his resignation was “designed to create tensions in Lebanon and the region.” The belief, implied in Mr Ghasemi’s comments, that Mr Hariri’s decision was in some way orchestrated by his Saudi-backers, appears to be shared by some observers who see this development as a way of shattering the outwardly appearance of a unified (some would say, Hezbollah-dominated) government, headed by Hariri who is himself a Sunni Muslim.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen what happens in Lebanon, with the current Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, expected to hold consultations with Parliament about appointing a caretaker government. How he goes about this will have a significant impact on a country whose history has been shaped by civil wars, political instability, and high-profile assassinations of Lebanese political figures. Eyes will be firmly placed on the selection process, especially if it results in the ascension of a pro-Hezbollah government, which would have severe political and economic consequences for the country. The US for example, could decide to impose sanctions on the country, since it has, in the past, designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The likelihood of a conflict along its southern border is a possibility, with many fearing a repeat of the 2006 confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah. The fact that Hezbollah has played a significant role in helping to take back ISIL-controlled territory in Syria, seems to be of little importance to the anti-Iranian/Hezbollah alliance. Worse yet, it seems to have heightened the level of anti-Iranian sentiment, considering how much political and military influence Tehran may now gain across three countries—Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. For Lebanon, it seems clears, that one of the immediate consequences of that growing influence has been imperilment of its political, social and economic stability.

Arthur Jamo
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Yemen, The Largest Humanitarian Crisis In The World

In the past, Yemen was a prosperous developing country suffused with economical and societal riches. Yemen’s roots in the development and distribution of internationally admired goods like coffee and gold date back centuries, which served as a reliable foundation for growth across much of its existence. However, over time it became apparent that Yemen’s unique capabilities would not prove to be an efficient protective mechanism against the travesties of humanity’s inner workings. Slowly, due to international involvement and rivaling political parties intervening with the nation’s societal welfare, the peace that Yemenis embraced for many years was beginning to dissolve into a thing of the past.
2015: The Ignition to Civil Turmoil
In 2004, the United States pushed the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to concentrate on combating a terrorist group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In response, Yemen’s military force backed by Saudi Arabia launched multiple strikes against a group known as Houthis, who Saleh alleged were creating a dynamic of separatism ,enforcing their religious beliefs on the country’s people and operating in collusion with AQAP. This created a severe rift between the most prominent religious parties in the nation, which established a hostile environment for the state of Yemen and all of its citizens. The trend towards a civil war, indicated by this long standing atmosphere of tension and conflict finally came to a precipice 11 years later. In February of 2015, the Houthi rebellion finally reached the place of power that it desired by forcing Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi (then leader of Yemen, and technically still president of the nation today) and his cabinet to flee to Saudi Arabia, leaving the Houthis essentially in control of the state and all of its facilities. Just a month later, the Saudi Arabian military set the goals of its military intervention to reverse the nation back into the authority of the Hadi government and retain governance over Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Ever since, these two factions have fought relentlessly for control over the nation, which once gave off a lustrous tint of optimism, but after seemingly endless warfare it has been reduced to a pile of debris and a living case study of how a society can collapse under the pressures of greed, religious opposition, and the corruption of foreign affairs.

The Current State of the Humanitarian Crisis
The civil war in Yemen has decreased the living conditions of its people to a terrifying level. With no resolution in sight, Yemeni people are faced with a situation where optimism for a brighter future seems more like an act of dreaming than a mental reflection of reality. In recent weeks, famine conditions caused by blockades on the borders of the nation and massive economic downfall rivaling famous events on global markets like the Great Depression have reached virality in an increased amount of regions around Yemen. It is estimated that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment. Along with mass starvation, the nationwide warfare has resulted in the displacement of approximately 4 million people, and the killing of over 100 000 people since 2015. These numbers give shocking insight into the sheer magnitude of this humanitarian crisis, and with important political figures like the U.S. President Joe Biden recently announcing reductions in international affairs including the civil war in Yemen, it is difficult to perceive a future where Yemeni citizens will be able to go back to the things they love. An individual can only enjoy the level of happiness that their society’s living conditions permits them to, and unfortunately for the Yemeni people, the likelihood of that ever getting back to a point of admiration remains shrouded in mystery.

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