Day after another more details are being disclosed about Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri’s detention in Saudi Arabia last November.
The New York Times’s Anne Barnard wrote on Sunday an article titled: “Why Saad Hariri Had That Strange Sojourn in Saudi Arabia.”
The American journalist who is the daily’s bureau chief in Beirut said Hariri was summoned early on Friday November 2 to Riyadh.
“Mr. Hariri, long an ally of the Saudis, dressed that morning in jeans and a T-shirt, thinking he was going camping in the desert with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.”
“But instead he was stripped of his cellphones, separated from all but one of his usual cluster of bodyguards, and shoved and insulted by Saudi security officers. Then came the ultimate indignity: He was handed a prewritten resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television.”
This, it seemed, was the real reason he had been beckoned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, a day earlier: to resign under pressure and publicly blame Iran, as if he were an employee and not a sovereign leader. Before going on TV, he was not even allowed to go to the house he owns there; he had to ask guards to bring him a suit.
According to Barnard, Hariri “was ordered to report to Riyadh, he was just a pawn in the crown prince’s overall battle: to rein in the regional ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s longtime rival, Iran.”
Quoting Western, Lebanese and regional officials and associates of Hariri, the journalist said that after delivering his speech, as his bewildered aides tried in vain to reach him from Beirut, Mr. Hariri did, indeed, eventually spend the evening in the desert with the crown prince.
Barnard said Bin Salman intended to send a message that “it was time to stop Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite organization that is Lebanon’s most influential political actor, from growing still stronger.”
“The prime minister’s month-long saga was another example of a brash new leader trying to change the way Saudi Arabia has worked for years, but finding that action often results in unintended consequences, especially in such a complicated region. Now, Mr. Hariri remains in office with new popularity, and Hezbollah is stronger than before.”
The report described Saudi tactics as arguably clumsy, noting that the have “alienated even staunch allies like the United States, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and much of Mr. Hariri’s Lebanese Sunni party.”
Source: The New York Times