Beirut – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is betting on a French role in softening the positions of Saudi Arabia, which shows indifference to the developments in the political situation in Lebanon, at a time when Riyadh refuses to provide financial support to Lebanon. Since his assignment, Mikati asserts that it is vital in order to stop the country’s collapse.
Saudi political circles say that Riyadh’s problem with Beirut is not with the people or the government, but rather with Lebanese policies, especially foreign policies, which are controlled by the pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
On Monday, September 27, French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “discuss regional issues and the situation in Lebanon.” But what was announced after the call did not include any direct reference to Lebanon.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated that the Saudi Crown Prince discussed with Macron “a number of issues and developments in the region,” and that during the call, “the relations between the two countries and opportunities for their development and development in various fields were reviewed in order to achieve the common interests of the two countries, as it was agreed upon.” stressing the importance of maintaining peace in the region and supporting efforts to enhance security and stability.
Riyadh’s problem with Beirut is not with the people or the government, but with the Lebanese policies that are controlled by Hezbollah
Political circles stated that the French president did not succeed in persuading the reticent Riyadh to modify its position on supporting Lebanon, despite providing a number of guarantees that meet part of its reservations.
Well-informed French sources said that a delegation headed by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Saudi Arabia later this month to meet with Saudi officials and discuss the Lebanese file more broadly.
This comes ahead of Macron’s upcoming visit, which he intends to conduct before the end of this year, to the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, to mobilize support for Lebanon from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
And this is not the first French attempt to soften the positions of Saudi Arabia. During the negotiations to form the new Lebanese government, Paris sent its ambassador, Anne Greu, to Riyadh against the background of a tripartite agreement between the foreign ministers of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the United States, Anthony Blinken, and Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, in which Paris tried to restore Some of the Riyadh attendees. However, the ambassador’s statements upon her return made it clear that Saudi Arabia is not interested in a strong return to Lebanon in light of Hezbollah’s control of the country.
The reassuring signals that Mikati sent on Tuesday to Riyadh, in which he affirmed that his government “will not be a platform against its Arab brothers in any way,” did not find any resonance with the Saudi leadership.
Mikati is waiting for a Saudi signal to visit Riyadh at the beginning of a Gulf tour that he intends to take soon after he started his first foreign tour in Paris, which contradicts the tradition of the Lebanese governments that Riyadh be their first kiss.
Mikati desperately wants to visit Riyadh, but analysts rule out this in light of a strict Saudi stance this time on Lebanon, which the successive officials at the head of the government did not fulfill their previous pledges.
Analysts rule out that Mikati’s signals would be acceptable to Saudi officials, especially since Riyadh has been involved for years in supporting successive Lebanese governments that have repeatedly failed to fulfill their pledges and have remained captive to the agendas of Hezbollah, whose leaders and behind them Iran hostile the Kingdom and threaten its security and stability.
The rigid Saudi position towards Lebanon blocks any bet on its role in resolving the Lebanon crisis, as is the case on many previous occasions, which further exacerbates the situation in Lebanon, which is mired in crises.
Lebanese political circles consider Saudi Arabia to be the party most capable of supporting Lebanon and helping it out of its crises, which it did in the past, but these circles wonder if Mikati was able to convince Saudi Arabia that he is not the prime minister of a government controlled by Hezbollah from behind the scenes, and is he able to Is he acting away from the dictates of the party and its secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah?
Saudi circles view the Mikati government as they did in 2011, meaning that it constitutes the Hezbollah government, which indicates that Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the internal-external settlement that brought Mikati to the assignment again.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has sent signals that it is no longer concerned with Lebanon and the controversy that led to the formation of a new government, at a time when it knows that Hezbollah is in control of the scene.
Riyadh has done everything in its power over the past years to support Lebanon and urged the parties to prevent its dependence on any foreign party, but the Lebanese continued to view the Kingdom as an agency tasked with pumping money and moving the economy and tourism without any political commitment towards it, an option that is no longer in line with its new policy. The kingdom provided billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Lebanon after the civil war (1975-1990), but in the past years it seemed angry at its failure to rein in the armed and powerful Hezbollah backed by Iran.
Since 2016, Saudi-Lebanese relations have witnessed a chill, dominated by tension, in light of the hegemony of Hezbollah, backed by Iran, and its allies, over the Lebanese decision, and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry taking a series of positions that seemed to be hostile to Riyadh.
In recent months, the Saudi interest in Lebanon has returned, but in reality it has not reached a real change in the situation. Riyadh still insists on the need to curb Hezbollah’s influence as an essential step to resume support for this country, a condition that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not abide by. Gulf circles believe that Mikati’s task during the remainder of the period of time until the elections are reached is summed up in a “fireman” who seeks to avoid a comprehensive collapse rather than find practical solutions for reform, and therefore Arab money, if any, will be consumed as usual without the desired results.
Pending the elections next spring, Saudi Arabia did not respond to the Lebanese officials’ calls. However, analysts assert that the kingdom will push its financial and political weight to support Beirut if the Lebanese manage to form a government in which Hezbollah does not have the final say.