Beirut – Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati opened his government mandate through the gates of Paris and London, trying to discuss the necessary support to overcome the country’s crisis, despite his realization that these countries do not have a solution for Lebanon without stifling reforms. On the other hand, his visits to the Gulf states – led by Saudi Arabia – that are able to help his country and save it from collapse seem postponed until now.
For years, the relationship between Lebanon and the Gulf states has been witnessing a state of apathy and silent tension due to the bias of most of the elites in Lebanon to Hezbollah and behind it Iran, without taking into account the country’s foreign interests and its relations with the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia.
By postponing contacting the Gulf states and trying to convince them of the government’s independence as much as possible from Iran’s regional arm, Hezbollah, Mikati misses his country’s opportunity to overcome its crises.
Last week, Mikati visited France, where he met President Emmanuel Macron, and then traveled to Britain, where he met many officials. In both countries, the Lebanese Prime Minister heard a unifying statement that “no blank checks, no financial aid without reforms.”
Johnny Mounir: Mikati is waiting for Saudi Arabia to resolve its position on his government, positively or negatively
Political analyst Muhammad Nimr believes that Mikati’s government came as a result of communication between France and Iran, noting that “France does not have sufficient support to save Lebanon, which can only be saved through the Gulf corridor, specifically Saudi Arabia, which historically had the greatest capabilities to extricate the country from its crises.”
Looking at the country’s history, after the July 2006 war, Lebanon witnessed a Gulf donation to help it; The Gulf people contributed billions of dollars for reconstruction and invested in various infrastructure and development projects, as well as deposits in the Central Bank of Lebanon, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who are still working in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia.
The Lebanese government headed by Mikati was formed after 13 months of stumbling after the resignation of the caretaker government headed by Hassan Diab, on the tenth of August last year, 6 days after a catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut.
The Lebanese hope that the new government will put an end to the severe economic crisis that has hit the country since late 2019, and has led to a financial collapse and a record rise in poverty rates, as well as a shortage of fuel, medicine and other basic commodities.
Since his assignment, Najib Mikati did not make a speech without mentioning the Arab countries with the aim of obtaining their support and support for his government.
Following Mikati’s visit to France, there were growing reports that he would visit the Gulf. To this day, the Prime Minister’s media office has not issued any comment on these conversations and has not set any date for a new foreign visit, but Mikati recently said that “so far, there is no specific visit to Saudi Arabia and Syria.”
Analyst Johnny Mounir points out that “Mikati is waiting for Saudi Arabia to decide its position toward the government, positively or negatively, in order to take the next step.”
On the other hand, the analyst suggested that Mikati would visit Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt in the coming period, considering that “these visits will mean political support, while financial support will be delayed pending an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.”
Lebanese political circles say that “given the history of relations between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, Riyadh is the most able among the Gulf states to support Lebanon and help it get out of its crises,” but these circles indicate that Saudi Arabia may not risk supporting a government controlled by Hezbollah.
This view was confirmed by the Saudi Minister of Investment, Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, who said during his visit to France, on the 23rd of last September, that “Saudi Arabia believes that this Lebanese government does not have its own internal political decision, but this does not mean that it does not monitor the actions of the executive authority.” and its actions, to monitor whether it will be able to prove that it has its own political decision.”
Muhammad Nimr: Lebanon can only be saved through the Gulf corridor, specifically Saudi Arabia
He pointed out that “since the government’s launch, there has been more than one merit, such as the entry of Iranian tanks loaded with diesel fuel into Lebanon, and the silence of the United States on this issue.”
Although about three weeks have passed since the formation of the Mikati government, no Saudi statement or comment was issued about it, as the Kingdom’s position on Lebanon does not depend only on reforms, but Hezbollah has a negative impact on the two countries’ historical relations.
Nimr shows that “Saudi Arabia was clear about its positions regarding any government in Lebanon, and it spoke about three basic things; The state’s implementation of reforms, the existence of a corrupt political class, and its belief that Hezbollah poses a security threat to it through the Houthis” in Yemen.
He points out that “there are many requirements for Lebanon to be a real country, and it has its own decision and government, and if these requirements are met, Saudi Arabia will be the first to help it.”
Mounir stresses that “it is not possible to rely on any external support, or even Gulf ones, before implementing reforms.”
On the tenth of last August, the Saudi Council of Ministers made it clear that any assistance provided to the current or future government in Lebanon depends on it carrying out serious and tangible reforms, while ensuring that aid reaches its beneficiaries, and avoiding mechanisms that enable the corrupt to control the fate of the country.
In general, Western financial aid to Lebanon remains linked to its implementation of reforms, while Gulf aid – specifically Saudi aid – is added to putting an end to Hezbollah’s power in the country.