ASIA/LEBANON - Prime Minister-designate Hariri resigns from office. Father Zgheib: crisis with uncertain outcome

Friday, 16 July 2021 middle east   oriental churches   geopolitics   sunnis   shi'ites   international politics  


Beirut (Agenzia Fides) - With Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's renunciation to form a new government "a new stage of the Lebanese crisis opens. The outcome appears uncertain: new ways out may be opened, or the country will sink even further into the problems that overwhelm it". The Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, chooses wait-and-see attitude rather than a peremptory tone to describe the possible evolution of the dramatic situation in the Land of Cedars. Lebanon has been without a government in office for 11 months. The devaluation of the lira resulted in a devastating inflation, in a country marked by the lack of fuel, pandemic emergencies, rationing of electricity supplies and social anger, also fueled by the failure to identify those responsible for the massacre caused by the explosion in the port of Beirut (August 4, 2020). In this context, yesterday, Thursday, July 15, the Prime Minister in charge, Saad Hariri, after presenting the list of 24 technical ministers he had chosen, resigned from his functions. The decline of the leader of the Sunni party "The Future" is presented by the mainstream media as the result of the tug-of-war between Hariri and the President of Lebanon, the former Christian Maronite General Michel Aoun, on the composition of the government team. Local analysts, consulted by Agenzia Fides, consider that the interpretation which traces the Lebanese crisis to the summit confrontation between the Prime Minister and the President is too narrow and partial, and calls into question geopolitical factors and unknowns which have a decisive impact on the current scenarios in the Land of the Cedar. In particular, many argue that Hariri's political weakening is due to the lack of support he received from Saudi Arabia in the past. It has not gone unnoticed that the prime minister in charge, in the many trips abroad (including to the Vatican) made in recent months to garner international support, has never stopped in Riyadh. In November 2017, while he was Prime Minister of the then Lebanese government, Saad Hariri surprisingly announced his resignation during a stay in the Saudi capital. He did not return home until several days later, and on that occasion Lebanese President Aoun declared that he considered Hariri a "de facto prisoner" of the Saudis. Given the controversial and complicated dynamic of Lebanese politics, the analysts consulted by Fides do not share the catastrophic considerations of those in the international media who read Hariri's withdrawal as confirmation of Lebanon's final and irreversible debacle. In this scenario full of unknowns, new hypotheses of "compromise" could open up between local and global geopolitical actors wishing not to let fall into the abyss the fragile but precious experience of "coexistence between different" that represents the Land of Cedars. There are many signs that an important role in the evolution of the crisis will be played by Saudi Arabia. It is in this context that we must also read certain unique considerations recently expressed by the Lebanese Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, who, during the past year, has repeatedly underlined the urgency to reaffirm and protect Lebanese "neutrality" in relation to the axes of power which clash in the Middle East. On July 8, taking part in the presentation of a book on the relations between the Maronite Church and the Saudi Kingdom by Abbot Antoine Daou, Cardinal Raï praised the "bond of friendship" which unites Saudi Arabia in Lebanon and the Maronite Church, declaring among other things that "Riyadh has never violated Lebanese sovereignty". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 16/7/2021)