Following a heated weekend of tension between the Lebanese government and neighboring Saudi Arabia, Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan said on Monday that Lebanon’s former prime minister said Hezbollah had committed acts that Riyadh considered an “a declaration of war.”
Sabhan told Saudi state-owned Al Arabiya that former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri reportedly relayed information that Hezbollah had committed “acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil,” according to Reuters.
Sabhan had said on Sunday that he has “confirmed information” of a plot to murder Hariri, who resigned on Saturday.
Sabhan said Hariri resigned unexpectedly on Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia because his life was in danger. Hariri gave a televised address from Riyadh in which he strongly implied Iran and its proxies in Lebanon were behind the plot to assassinate him.
“Saudi Arabia is different than the terrorist state Iran. We respect Lebanese parties despite their different opinions,” said Sabhan.
“We do not want explosions and destruction to happen again in the Hariri family,” he added, referring to the fatal bombing of Saad al-Hariri’s father and prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, in 2005.
Sabhan had harsh words for Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, calling them “a militia that tried to transfer Syrian battles to Lebanon and to harm Lebanon and Arab countries.”
“What’s the difference between Hezbollah and ISIS?” he asked.
Iran has accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of coordinating with U.S. President Donald Trump to arrange Hariri’s resignation, with the goal “creating tension in Lebanon and the region.”
An analysis of the resignation posted by Haaretz suggests Hariri resigned after receiving strong criticism from the Saudis for making too many concessions to Hezbollah, specifically citing Minister Thamer al-Sabhan as a source of “scathing criticism.”
On Monday, Sabhan gave another interview in which he said acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil.” This was quickly judged to be more than a rhetorical flourish by Sabhan, as the Saudi minister stressed that Riyadh will henceforth treat Lebanon as a “hostile government.”