By Franklin P. Lamb
At the forefront are some of Iran's several Lebanese proxies who immediately in knee-jerk fashion, accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage, and they demanded the PM's return to Lebanon. For what purpose is still not clear. Many in Lebanon believe it to give his stalkers time to organized Hariri's assassination.
Lebanon's virulently anti-Palestinian President Michel Aoun (who has sworn that if he is President, Palestinians in Lebanon will never be allowed the elementary civil right to work) was handpicked and put into his position by Hezbollah after a 19-month Presidential vacancy, immediately demanded to know why PM Hariri did not inform him in advance. And, Aoun added, why were not Lebanon's Internal Security Force (ISF), or Lebanon's army, Parliament and airport officials not told of Hariri's plans, destination and schedule.
Beirut and Washington DC sources have suggested to this observer that Hariri's thinking and motivation for a quick departure from Lebanon was influenced by reports delivered to him personally from three Western security agencies who have for the past six months been monitoring the movements of certain security agents from Hezbollah. These elements, it is claimed have been using 'secured' mobile phones while stalking Hariri since his appointment as PM one year ago much as was done to shadow his father Rafik, twelve years ago. The intelligence agencies are said to believe, as do most Lebanese, including a majority of Shia, that the Hezbollah members, currently being tried in absentia before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in The Hague blew up Saad's father and 21 others on February 14, 2005. Saad Hariri was reportedly shown demonstrative and probative evidence that those currently watching and recording most of his moves, including his convoy routes and frequented destinations, constitute a mortal danger to him and that he urgently needs to take immediate security measures and even leave Lebanon until the threat could be removed. French, German, British and American officials, with knowledge of the intelligence reports have said even publicly that they do not credit the Aoun-Hezbollah-Iran claims that Hariri is being held hostage by Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, some Western countries and that their security forces have 'activated' assets in Lebanon to investigate the threats.
The West as well as the Arab countries are backing Hariri. On 11/13/2017, France's Foreign Ministry insisted that an essential condition for the stability of the region is that Iran stop interfering in Lebanon's domestic affairs. The Ministry's spokeswoman read the statement: "Mr. Saad al-Hariri called on Iran yesterday to stop interfering in the affairs of Lebanon and its neighbors. We believe that this is an important condition for the stability of the region."
The preceding day, 11/12/2017, the UAE Minister of State for Defense Affairs warned a gathering of U.S. government, military and business leaders that Iranian-sponsored terror, while "similar" to al-Qaeda and ISIS, "has greater potential" for impacting negatively on the region and the world. He added: "Iran has exceeded all limits, and this has serious repercussions on world peace." Moreover, distributed on the sidelines of the meeting were summaries and some copies of newly released CIA documents from the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. This observer has not read the physical documents but they allegedly contain demonstrative evidence that Iran provided funds, military advisers, staffers, travel documents and coordination to al Qaeda. Similar accusations are made with respect to claimed Iran assistance to ISIS while claiming that Iran needs ISIS to continue its mayhem in Syria and Iraq to have "Resistance" projects in both countries as it continues to colonize them. As it is doing to Yemen and has already accomplished, many believe, in Lebanon.
The main immediate cause of the current Lebanese crisis and possibly another civil war is grounded in the proxy confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Qatar, Afghanistan, Palestine and beyond. Very recent history has witnessed permutations in these confrontations which have brought the tensions to a head. "We are in the eye of the storm," Hariri announced on 11/12/2017 on Future TV. Lebanon's Prime Minister communicated between the lines that the unity government he formed a year ago was to construct and honor an agreement for any Lebanese militia not to interfere in regional affairs and it was agreed that Lebanon would 'disassociate' from regional war. But that Hezbollah was not serious and never intended to honor the agreement per orders from Iran. And that this has been the case since Hezbollah entered Lebanon's fractured political arena in 2005.
Hezbollah's critics have meanwhile called for addressing the political content of Hariri's resignation. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea challenged Iran and Hezbollah on 11/11/2017 insisting that "if Hezbollah's March 8th alliance truly wants PM Saad Hariri's return they would withdraw from the crises in the region."
When Hariri became Prime Minister, it was to be of a "consensual" government. But it was never so intended by one side and was dominated by parties taking orders from Tehran.
Hariri stated in his interview with Future TV that "Hezbollah is a regional issue, not just a Lebanese issue." He explained to the Lebanese public that his resignation was totally his own decision dismissing as ludicrous reports that he was forced by anyone to resign. But he also made clear that he needs to focus seriously on security arrangements before returning to Lebanon. Hariri added: "The Syrian regime does not want me alive and a lot of parties do not want Saad Hariri. I wrote the resignation letter and I had to resign in an unusual fashion for security reasons."
It is no secret in Lebanon that Saad Hariri's life has been in danger. In addition, confidential information from a few Western and Middle Eastern security agencies who track Hezbollah's security movements in Lebanon reportedly warned MP Hariri that he was in imminent danger. "I remember what happened when my father was martyred. I don't want the same thing to happen to me," Hariri said. As noted above, his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005 widely attributed to Hezbollah against which massive relevant, material, probative and likely juridically dispositive evidence has been amassed in the soon to rendered verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in The Hague.
On 11/12/2017 Aoun reiterated, allegedly on instructions from his handlers, that "anything declared by Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh will be a subject of suspicion." Aoun continued, "These circumstances make anything that PM Hariri has issued or will issue, and anything attributed to him, a subject of suspicion and ambiguity." Aoun added that Hariri's stances "cannot be recognized as official or emanating from his free will."
Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah has argued the same thing while instructing Al Manar, Al Mayadeen, Press TV and other Iran paid for media not to air Hariri's news conference of 11/12/2017. Lebanon's President also instructed Lebanon's state television channel to black out Hariri's interview. Why Aoun deemed it in the interest of the Lebanese people not to listen to their Prime Minister's interview on an important security issue has not been explained despite media requests. Others insist Aoun was instructed by Hezbollah not to allow Hariri's interview to be aired.
So what is one to think about Aoun's complaint that Hariri was somehow insubordinate by not detailing to him in advance his security plans or, perhaps more relevant, to Lebanon's Internal Security Agency (ISF) or the Lebanese army? The frank answer is that Aoun is considered by many in Lebanon and the region as Iran's agent and not Lebanon's legitimate President. Aoun cannot be trusted with Lebanese security matters because many if not most of Lebanon's supposed secrets are channeled from his office to Hezbollah and then to the Iranian Embassy where reports claim Nasrallah's second favorite hideout is four levels underground.
Aoun was appointed by Hezbollah. Aoun cannot be trusted to safeguard Lebanon's security issues, many Western countries and even members of Lebanon's Parliament believe. With respect to the ISF, it is considered largely controlled by Hezbollah via its Shia pro-Hezbollah Director, Abbas Ibrahim. Many Lebanese and foreign observers also believe this to be the case with Lebanon's army, most of its soldier's being Shia. Lebanon's army, according to two Sunni soldiers on active duty, increasingly takes its orders from Hezbollah as was exposed during the recent Lebanon-Syria border fighting. The Lebanese army has also been accused of protecting many of the Iran/Hezbollah arms depots in south Lebanon and along the Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley. This, as UNIFIL tends to nod off when Hezbollah units appear in a particular area.
So it may not be too surprising that PM Hariri did not telegraph to perceived Iran-Hezbollah loyalists the advanced details of his plans and movements. Nor is it particularly suspicious, contrary to some media assertions. Or that Mr. Hariri did not cancel some appointments for the subsequent couple of days and that is somehow proof that he was kidnapped. In fact, the Prime Minister did not suddenly cancel his schedule until he departed Lebanon so as not to arouse suspicions and alert his possible assailants. Most of us would likely have done the same thing.
PM Saad Hariri's speech accused Iran of "meddling in the region" and blamed Hezbollah for taking Lebanon "hostage" and that he had reason to fear assassination like his late father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was killed on February 14, 2005. With unusual bluntness Saad Hariri informed the world that the hands which seek to subjugate Lebanon and the region "will be cut off." Hariri declared that it is no longer sensible for him to share a government with the armed "Resistance" militia Hezbollah.
Lebanon's gifted people now face yet another escalating and dangerous crisis largely imposed from without but made deadlier by local collaborators and foreign proxies.