On November 4, in the midst of a major internal shakeup in Riyadh, Saad Hariri gave a press conference there announcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon, citing the terrorist group Hizballah’s control of his country as the cause. There is little doubt that the Saudis encouraged the decision. While some commentators have accused the kingdom of fomenting chaos in already fragile Lebanon, Elliott Abrams argues that it is responding rationally to reality:
The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hizballah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran. . . . It is not [the Saudi crown prince] Mohammed bin Salman . . . who is bringing danger to Lebanon; it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars; it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hizballah, abandoning any [supposed] national role in order to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.
What the Saudis are doing is saying: enough—let’s start describing Lebanese reality instead of burying it. Let’s stop financing a situation that allows Hizballah to feed off the Lebanese state, dominate that state, and use it as a launching pad for terror and aggression in the Middle East, all on Iran’s behalf.
There is of course no guarantee that this approach will succeed: the Lebanese may be too terrified of Hizballah. And success will require action by the United States and its allies, particularly France. If all of Lebanon’s friends took the same approach, demanding that Hizballah’s grip on the country and the state be limited, we might embolden Lebanon’s citizens and its politicians to protest Hizballah’s chokehold. Economic assistance to Lebanon and military assistance to its army should be made dependent on their pushing back against Hizballah and regaining Lebanese independence. The price Lebanon pays for Hizballah should be made far clearer, and the advantages Hizballah gains from its control of Lebanon should be reduced—and made far more controversial.
Are these outrageous demands? On the contrary, they are in fact required by UN Security Council resolution 1701, adopted in August 2006 to end the war between Hizballah and Israel.