Syrian President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah’s rare vists to Beirut ten days ago had a much more important purpose than simply quieting the region. Now it seems clear that what brought the two leaders to intervene in Beirut’s affairs was the threat that Hizballah was on the way to triggering a revolution in Lebanon due to the latter’s intention to accuse it of assassinating late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The frantic messages regarding Hizballah’s intentions—which right now serves as part of the national unity government in Lebanon—to overthrow the government by force, came from Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, who asked that the Saudi King intervene. Abdallah tried to enlist President Assad in the effort, who in the end came to Beirut, but flexed his muscle instead of calming the flames.
“I cannot guarantee the future of the Lebanese government nor the current political situation until the issue of the indictment is dealt with,” said Assad, thereby demonstrating his influence over Hizballah and hinting about his position on the issue of the Hariri murder investigation.
In response, the Saudis promised to do all they can to completely cancel the accusation against Hizballah in the assassination case. Because of this, Hizballah postponed its threat until it becomes clear if the Saudis will fulfill their part of the deal.
These provocative details were first published in the Lebanese Al Ahbar newspaper by Ibrahaim Amin, one of the journalists closest to Hizballah’s leadership. Amin reported that the Hizballah leadership decided to embark on an uncompromising campaign against the intention to convict the organization of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.A three way meeting
These last few weeks, Nasrallah conducted several speeches in which he clarified that his organization will not sit quietly while its men are being accused. Additionally, Nasrallah threatened that if an indictment was served against his organization, it might spark a civil war.
Sa’ad Hariri, Lebanon’s current Prime Minister and sun of the late Prime Minister, quickly turned to his patrons, the Saudi royal family. He told King Abdullah that Syria is the only one that can stop Hizballah and was told that the King would personally see to easing the situation. Due to the urgency of the circumstances, the Saudis turned to Assad, despite the tenseness between the two countries these last few years.
Last month, Prince Abd al Aziz, son of King Abdullah came to Damascus to meet with Assad. During the visit, a three way meeting was set up between the Saudi Prince, the Syrian President and Lebanese PM Sa’ad Hariri, in which Assad warned that he would not allow Hizballah to be declared responsible for the Hariri assassination.
During the very same visit, the Prince was concurrently preparing the ground for King Abdullah’s rare visit to Damascus. The prince said that the Saudi king was interested in seeing Assad for a short visit in Beirut in order to calm tensions.Calm did not return
Assad agreed, only after the King exerted pressure on him during the three hour conversation between them in Damascus. Already the next day the two left for Beirut and conducting meetings with the Lebanese leadership, which brought about a temporary calming of the situation that was about to explode due to the intention of accusing Hizballah of assassinating Hariri.
Nevertheless, Hizballah’s threat has not been tabled and awaits the results of the international probe, which is poised to accuse the organization of the assassination. Assad then continued to maneuver between the two sides and warned: “In all honesty, I cannot guarantee the future of the Lebanese government if this matter is not dealt with.”
The Saudis made a few suggestions, among them getting a stay for the publication of the indictment. Hizballah updated Assad that a say was not acceptable, and the only acceptable option would be if the King promised to do everything he could to end the matter completely. Only afterward did the three speak of “calm in Lebanon.”
“Saudi Arabia complied with your demands,” the Saudis told Syria and Hizballah. “Nasrallah rang warning bells, and we obliged. Now give us room to work.” At this point, the Hizballah leadership has decided to give the Saudis a chance to act and defuse the crisis, but those who think that quiet has returned to Lebanon is mistaken. If the Saudis do not succeed in deliver the goods, Hizballah intends to return to their original intention—overthrowing the government.