More than a week after his shocking resignation announcement, Lebanese leader Saad Hariri gave a much-anticipated interview Sunday night in which he vowed to return to his home country while leaving the door open to resuming his duties as prime minister.
In an appearance on a network associated with his “Future Movement” political party, Hariri said he planned to confirm his intent to step down from within Lebanon, in accordance with the constitution, before qualifying that he could rescind his decision if Hezbollah—the military and political power in the country—agrees to stay out of regional conflicts.
The Iranian-backed Shi’ite group, which is at the center of the current Lebanese crisis, remains enmeshed in the Syrian conflict in support of President Bashar Assad and also has fighters in both Yemen and Iraq, where Riyadh-Tehran tensions continue to play out in proxy wars and corresponding diplomatic battles for political influence.
Hariri’s original November 4 declaration from the Saudi capital triggered a major crisis in Lebanon and gave rise to rumors that he was coerced into quitting and being held under house arrest. According to reports, upon his arrival to Saudi Arabia, there were no officials awaiting Hariri, whose belongings were subsequently confiscated. He purportedly was taken to an undisclosed location, where he waited for hours before being presented with his resignation speech to read live on a television broadcast. Although he met with multiple foreign ambassadors thereafter, Hariri remained out of the public eye, leading some to believe his freedom of movement was restricted.
The turmoil has left Lebanon in a renewed state of chaos, raising memories of the country’s devastating civil war from 1975-1990, as well as a dark history of foreign interference in its political sphere—most notably the 2005 assassination of Saad’s father, former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, allegedly by Hezbollah operatives at the directive of the Syrian regime.
The situation, according to Lebanese parliamentarian Imad Alhout, therefore calls for a deep examination of all the contributing factors, foremost Iran’s involvement in the government. “Hezbollah [which is an Iranian proxy] broke all the agreements and is…