TEL AVIV — Lebanon is carefully following the visit of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to Saudi Arabia amid the campaign for parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in a few weeks.
Saudi Arabia is considered to be the political solution for the Sunni Muslim forces led by Hariri’s Al Mustaqbal (“the future”) movement.
Over the weekend, social media extensively discussed Hariri’s selfie with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, who many believe forced Hariri to issue his resignation a few months ago in a televised speech from the Saudi capital in an attempt to create a political crisis in Lebanon that would weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah organization.
The Lebanese-based newspaper Addiyar reported that the Saudis are intensifying their campaign to strengthen their allies in Lebanon and weaken their rivals, especially Iran-backed Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah.
According to the report, last week’s visit to Lebanon by Nizar al-Aloula, an adviser to the Saudi crown prince, and the meetings he held in the country as well as the invitation to Hariri to visit Saudi Arabia, were the beginning of the Saudi campaign.
The newspaper reported that the visit is meant to unite the forces opposed to Hezbollah and decrease the organization’s chances of success in the elections as well as to secure a victory for the Christian camp opposed to the group and a loss to President Michel Aoun, who cooperates with Hezbollah.
The report quoted diplomatic sources in Lebanon as saying that the Saudi campaign is part of an extensive plan to increase political and media pressure against Hezbollah, a campaign focused on “destroying Hassan Nasrallah’s image” regardless of the elections.
According to the report, the elections are a minor detail and the Saudis intend to fight Hezbollah because of the role it is playing in the Middle East.
The Saudis are also concerned, according to the report, by Hezbollah’s growing influence among the Palestinians, an arena that is likely to come to the fore soon with progress in American preparations to release President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The diplomatic sources cited by the newspaper claimed that the Saudis are preparing for significant developments “after the ripening of Trump’s deal of the century” and that they are therefore trying to increase their efforts against Hezbollah.