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Lebanese PM Quits, Blasts Iran for Assassination Threat, Political Meddling

Lebanon’s prime minister resigned Saturday in a surprise announcement broadcast from Saudi Arabia, blasting Iran for meddling in his country and indicating that his life was in danger, The New York Times reported.

Saad Hariri, who was appointed prime minister last December by Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s Hezollah-allied president, broadcast his statement on Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya television.

Hariri charged that Iran had established a “state within a state” in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah.

“I want to tell Iran and its followers that they are losing in their interferences in the affairs of Arab nations. Our nation will rise just as it did before, and the hands that will harm it will be cut,” Hariri said.

“I sensed what was being conspired in the darkness to target my life,” Hariri said, recalling that his own father had been assassinated in 2005. A United Nations tribunal has indicted five members of Hezbollah for Rafiq Haririr’s killing, but Hezbollah has refused to surrender the suspects.

A Saudi official later said that Hariri’s bodyguards had uncovered a plot to kill him.

Shortly after Hariri’s resignation, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile over its airport that had been fired by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. The Saudis and their allies termed the attempted missile attack a “dangerous escalation” and blamed it on “Iranian support” for the Houthis.

The Times noted that Hezbollah is the strongest faction in Lebanese politics because “of its powerful militia, which can act independently of the state and in recent years has served as an expeditionary force across Syria.” The United Nations Security Council resolution 1701 called for “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.”

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hariri’s resignation should serve as a  “wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian aggression.”

In January, Hezbollah took control of several key ministries in Lebanon’s government.

Hezbollah’s chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah dismissed Hariri’s resignation as a “Saudi decision.” Nasrallah boasted last year that “we are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Three years ago, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei boasted that Iran, after its proxy Houthi rebels captured Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, controlled four Arab capitals. The other three were Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad.

[Photo: euronews (en français) / YouTube]