Jean-Yves Le Drian is due to visit Saudi Arabia today.
The trip comes amid rumours that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, allegations that Hariri has denied. Last week, the PM abruptly resigned from his post while on a trip to Riyadh. On Tuesday, he confirmed over Twitter that he will be returning to Lebanon in the next few days.
It is believed that Hariri was forced to resign because of his unwillingness to crack down on Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a Tehran-backed political party and militant organisation. Iran has denounced the resignation as a Saudi and US-backed plot, claiming it will serve to escalate tensions in the region.
Lebanon’s political stability is incredibly delicate—the country experienced a civil war from 1975-1990 and a war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seems keen on countering Iranian influence in the Middle East, even at great cost. Nonetheless, if he tampers too much with Beirut’s internal politics, he could reignite Lebanese sectarian hostilities and turn Lebanon into the region’s next proxy-battlefield.
Max is Foreign Brief's Chief Executive Officer. A Latin America specialist, Max is an expert in regional political and economic trends, focusing particularly on the Southern Cone.