MidEast

Saudi Foreign Minister: Iran, Hezbollah Have “Kidnapped” Lebanon

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has accused Hezbollah of having “kidnapped the Lebanese system,” as he warned at a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday that regional efforts were under way to oust the terrorist organization from the Lebanese government.

The Times of Israel reported that al-Jubeir called on Hezbollah to disarm, denouncing the group as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The group, which is in complete political and military control over Lebanon, “is not just a power unto itself, but is one of the most important instruments in the drive for regional supremacy by its sponsor: Iran,” Ben Hubbard wrote in an exclusive investigative story in The New York Times published in August, based on months of interviews with officials, fighters, commanders and analysts, and with members of Hezbollah itself.

Saudi Arabia is vying with its rival, Iran, for regional influence, with both countries supporting different groups in Lebanon. Tehran is currently trying to secure a corridor from its border, through Iraq and all the way to the Mediterranean—providing it unhindered land access to its allies in Syria and Lebanon for the first time—a plan of which Hezbollah is a central component.

Hezbollah has drastically increased its area of operation under Iranian guardianship. No longer just exercising power over Lebanon, the group sent legions of fighters to Syria to support the Assad regime, trained other Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, and supported the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Meanwhile, al-Jubeir has denied accusation that the kingdom was holding Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri against his will. “I don’t know the source of these accusations. But they are rejected and are baseless and untrue,” al-Jubeir said, adding that Hariri “leaves when he wants to.”

The Saudi minister made the comments as news emerged that Hariri has accepted an invitation to visit France, after he announced his resignation in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago in a move that rattled the region. Hariri is expected in France in the coming days and will meet with President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

[Photo: Iranian-American Forum / YouTube]