Alwaght- It was largely unthinkable that a leaked audio file of the past of the Lebanese Information Minister George Kurdahi about his stance on the Yemeni war and his praise of the Yemeni resistance to the Saudi-led would lead to sch a deep and wide crisis in the Riyadh-Beirut relations. The Saudis not only cut off economic and political ties with Lebanon and imposed a bilateral travel ban but also encouraged the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain to follow suit.
There is a question: What would be the outcomes of Saudi Arabia flexing its muscles to Lebanon?
Making Kurdahi a hero heard globally
Since 2014, Saudi Arabia has had a licentious foreign policy by a young but naïve ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, who is thirsty for power and being seen. His taking some emotional actions without a foresight of their consequences have been a source of troubles for the Saudi royalty. His assassination of his critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 was in the style of the gangster movies of the Hollywood. His largely noisy reforms also were detrimental to his image at home and abroad. The Yemen war is another example where Riyadh is trying very hard not to allow the spread of critical voices in the Arab world against the crimes committed in this futile seven-year military campaign.
Like the murder of the Khashoggi, which was way costlier than silencing a journalist for Riyadh and bin Salman as the heir to the throne, the uproarious measures of Saudi Arabia against Kurdahi over the past few days only brought the world media attention to the logical and courageous comments of this Lebanese minister. Actually, Riyadh not only did not intimidate the critics of devastating and ruthless Yemen war but also it helped his voiced heard even better given the massive circulation of the news on the social media. In other words, Kurdahi is now regarded as a hero whose voice against the Saudi oppression and crimes in Yemen cannot be silenced.
Riyadh’s gamble to topple PM Mikati
The fact that Saudi Arabia has been exerting influence and pressure on Lebanese politicians for years to weaken Hezbollah in the Lebanese political arena and remove Hezbollah from the cabinet formation process is undeniable. The high popular legitimacy of Hezbollah, which is caused by its defense of the national security and sovereignty in the face of the Israeli hostility and a source uplift to national pride, has been alarming to its enemies. Although the current critical economic conditions are a result of decades of wrong policies of the Saudi and Western-backed parties in Lebanon, the Western-Arab-Israeli camp are seeking to paint the current economic predicament an effect of Hezbollah presence in the government. Western sanctions on Lebanese figures and banks with links to Hezbollah or fabricating the documents about the devastating Beirut port explosions are precisely driven by anti-Hezbollah intentions and meant to aggravate the crisis in Lebanon.
Now that amid a mass of foreign obstructionist efforts to perpetuate the political crisis the cooperation of political parties, with the centrality of Hezbollah, has led to the end of a political stalemate and the formation of a cabinet, Riyadh is striving for collapse of Mikati’s fledgling government.
So far, Mikati has tried to ease the tensions by persuading Saudi Arabia and other sanctioning countries to soften their tone, in a show of difference between his views and those of his minister Kurdahi. On the other hand, Mikati does not want to give up to the Saudi pressures and resign in disgrace because this will damage his legacy of three terms in office as PM. He knows that his surrender to Riyadh would be considered damaging to national pride by public opinion.
Bin Salman is resorting to a political gamble again and this time can bring him a defeat heavier than those brought by Qatar crisis. It should not be ignored that Qatar, Oman, Jordan, and Egypt, which are part of the so-called Saudi coalition in Yemen war, did not side with Saudi Arabia in the boycott of Lebanon. This reality means that even forcing the Lebanese government to expel Kurdahi from the cabinet will not bring honor and respect to Riyadh. To conclude, the current controversy has been nothing but disgraceful to Saudi Arabia.