Hariri's Resignation Plot to Fuel Regional Tensions

Hariri's Resignation Plot to Fuel Regional TensionsHariri's Resignation Plot to Fuel Regional Tensions

A senior diplomat said the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is part of a joint plot by the US and Saudi Arabia to stoke tensions in the already chaotic Middle East.

Hariri, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia, announced in a broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday that he was stepping down. Hariri was prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, an advisor to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Sunday that Hariri's resignation has definitely been coordinated by the US and Saudi Arabia.

"After the failure of Daesh and defeat of Washington and Riyadh in the region, they are attempting to muddy the waters in Lebanon and the region," he said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, which is on the way out from Iraq and Syria.

In a scathing verbal attack against Iran, Hariri alleged in the broadcast that Tehran was sowing strife, destruction and ruin in several countries in the region and he accused it of a "deep hatred for the Arab nation".

Hariri also claimed that the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah was "directing weapons" at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese. Addressing "Iran and its followers", he said the Arab world would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it".

Sheikholeslam said, "The US, Saudis and their allies intend to reverse their defeats in the region, but they won't be able to do that."

The diplomat, a former Iranian ambassador to Syria, said opponents of Iran have suffered a string of defeats in the last four decades since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi echoed Sheikholeslam, saying Hariri's departure was aimed at adding to problems in Lebanon and the region.

Hariri has repeated "unrealistic and unfounded accusations" and has aligned himself with "those who want ill for the region", Qasemi said.

The spokesman said late Saturday the only side benefiting from escalated tensions in the region is the Israeli regime.

Hariri's sudden departure has created concerns that Lebanon could plunge into a new political crisis.

The Sunni politician took office in a political deal that made the prominent Hezbollah-allied politician Michel Aoun president, ending two years of political deadlock. The coalition government he led brought together almost all the main political parties on board in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. Hariri had made several recent visits to Saudi Arabia. His announcement came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Fars News Agency reported an unnamed Iranian source briefed on the meeting as saying Hariri announced his resignation after Iran rejected his demand on behalf of Saudis about the Yemen conflict. The source said Hariri had asked Velayati in the meeting that Iran stop supporting the Yemeni nation and take steps to improve relations with Persian Gulf Arab states. Iran and Saudi Arabia are at odds over various conflicts in the region, notably Yemen, which has been under attack by the Saudi war machine since 2015, as parts of what Saudis claim is protecting democracy in their southern neighbor.

"Velayati had responded that Saudis must stop bombarding the innocent Yemenis and lift the blockade on the country to open the path for dialogue with the Yemeni nation and settle the conflict," the source said.


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