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Lebanon Fears Saudis May Impose Qatar-Like Sanctions

Lebanon Fears Saudis May Impose Qatar-Like SanctionsLebanon Fears Saudis May Impose Qatar-Like Sanctions

Lebanese politicians and bankers believe Saudi Arabia intends to do to their country what it did to Qatar—corral Arab allies into enforcing an economic blockade unless its demands are met.

Unlike Qatar, the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas with a population of just 300,000, Lebanon has neither the natural nor financial resources to ride it out, and people there are worried, Reuters reported.

Up to 400,000 Lebanese work in the Persian Gulf Arab region, and remittances flowing back into the country, estimated at between $7-8 billion a year, are a vital source of cash to keep the economy afloat and the heavily-indebted government functioning.

“These are serious threats to the Lebanese economy which is already dire. If they cut the transfer of remittances, that will be a disaster,” a senior Lebanese official told Reuters.

Those threats came from Lebanon’s former prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, who resigned on Nov. 4 in a shock broadcast from Riyadh that Lebanese political leaders have ascribed to pressure from the Saudis.

Hariri, an ally of Saudi Arabia, on Sunday warned of possible Arab sanctions and a danger to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese living in the Persian Gulf Arab states.

And he spelled out Saudi conditions for Lebanon to avoid sanctions: Hezbollah must stop meddling in regional conflicts, particularly Yemen.

According to a Lebanese source familiar with Saudi thinking, Hariri’s interview “gave an indication of what might be waiting for us if a real compromise is not reached. The playbook is there in Qatar.”

The non-confrontational Saudi policy of the past towards Lebanon has gone, analysts say, under the new leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32-year-old son of King Salman. He is now the de facto ruler of the kingdom, running its military, political and economic affairs.

“They (Hezbollah) might make some cosmetic concessions, but they won’t submit to the Saudi conditions,” a source familiar with Hezbollah thinking said.

Lebanese analyst Sarkis Naoum said Riyadh wanted Hariri to return to Lebanon and press President Michel Aoun to open dialogue and address their conditions on Hezbollah’s regional interventions. “They need to come up with a position that will be satisfactory to the Saudis,” Naoum said.

A source close to Hariri said he had “put the ball in the court of Aoun, Hezbollah and its allies, by saying “business cannot continue as usual. There was no sugar-coating. The sanctions were spelled out clearly. They want Lebanon to be disassociated from Hezbollah”.

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