Only the Lebanese can save Lebanon now
By : Faisal J. Abbas
Much has been said about the tension between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, however, it was HRH Prince Turki al-Faisal who seems to have hit the nail on the head in describing the situation.
Speaking in his personal capacity yesterday in Abu Dhabi at a round table organized by the Beirut Institute, Prince Turki (who is a former ambassador and intelligence chief) said Lebanon has always been regarded as the “lung” of the Arab world.
“The problem is that this lung is now suffering from pneumonia,” he elaborated.
Of course, the Saudis have long known this to be the case, and have tried on numerous occasions to boost Lebanon’s immunity against Iranian militant virus Hezbollah.
In fact, the $3 billion in military and security aid (which Riyadh has just announced halting) was the last in a series of attempts to help strengthen the formal Lebanese army and police force.
It’s now up to the Lebanese (and the Lebanese alone) to cut off the Iranian tentacles strangling their nation
Faisal J. Abbas
However, ever since the assassination of Saudi-backed PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005 (which Hezbollah is formally accused of), Iran – through its loyal local agents – has been systematically demolishing all what was left of the Hariri legacy, which was aimed at rebuilding the country, restoring hope and bringing peace and prosperity to ALL Lebanese.
The last straw was when Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, recently refused to support an Arab League statement denouncing Iranian meddling in the region following the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Of course, many Lebanese politicians and concerned citizens voiced their objection to the position of FM Basil, however it seems Riyadh is now convinced that there is no way to help Lebanon unless it decides to help itself first.
A picture is a thousand words
Critics will probably ask why Saudi’s interference is being painted positively, while Iran’s is being portrayed as a destabilizing force.
Well, it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and those who are in doubt must only revert to an image which recently went viral that really does say it all.
The picture compares a prosperous Lebanon which was rebuilt following the Taif Accord (a Saudi initiative which brought an end to the devastating 15-year civil war), to the country which was left to rot under piles of uncollected garbage last year.
Indeed, Lebanon – once dubbed the Switzerland of the Orient – is now a shadow of its former self. Thanks to Iranian meddling, it has failed to agree on a president since 2014, and continues to have a defunct parliament and a crippled Prime Minster.
One could argue whether or not the cutting off of Saudi aid might risk Lebanon further leaning towards Tehran, however, the reality is that it’s now up to the Lebanese (and the Lebanese alone) to cut off the Iranian tentacles strangling their nation.
However, as many Saudis would tell you, the recent escalation is in no way an act against its population, or the “Lebanese who played a major part in the building of Saudi Arabia” (as Prince Turki described them). This was further evident in today’s Saudi cabinet statement which stressed that the kingdom will continue to support the Lebanese people.
Indeed, Riyadh was both gracious and wise not to lend its ears to the reckless comments made by the pro-Iranian lobbyists in Lebanon, for it knows far too well that these opportunists will be the only ones to prosper from a complete breakdown of the relationship.
As for the cutting of military aid, it most definitely should be understood the way it was intended: “You can’t have the cake, and eat it too!”
Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.
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