Saad Hariri has, according to most observers, including the President of Lebanon, been held captive in Saudi Arabia by the Riyadh regime. His shock “resignation” delivered on Saudi state-run television in a Saudi dialect, took much of the world, including most political parties in Lebanon by surprise.
Over the last few days, Hariri Tweeted to his followers that he would be back in Lebanon within two days. Since this deadline passed, he changed his story to say that in the near future he would be back in Lebanon.
Lebanon, Iran and the EU have all issued statements seeking Saad Hariri’s safe and orderly return to Lebanon, but it appears he will be going to France instead.
“Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and his family will travel to France in coming days, a French presidential source said on Wednesday, after Emmanuel Macron invited him as part of efforts to defuse tensions in the Middle East.
Speaking in the German city of Bonn after a climate conference, Macron said his invitation was not an offer of exile for Hariri, who announced his abrupt resignation as premier 11 days ago from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has refused to accept his prime minister’s resignation, earlier on Wednesday accused the Saudis of holding Hariri hostage – and called this an act of aggression”.
French President Emmanuel Macron made an emergency visit to Saudi Arabia five days ago. Logic would dictate that a deal was struck whereby the Saudi regime is happy to hand Hariri over to the French, though they refuse to allow him safe passage to Lebanon.
Whether Hariri will travel from Lebanon from France is at this point, anyone’s guess. If the Saudi regime has effectively instructed Hariri not to travel to Lebanon or else face financial ruin in respect of his vast Saudi assets, or worse yet, death at the hands of a Saudi proxy terrorist group such as al-Qaeda, his fate may be that of a permanent exile in Europe. While the Saudi script Hariri read stated that Iran and Hezbollah threatened his life, rumours that were dismissed outright by the non-partisan Lebanese Army, Police and security services, it appears his life is now under threat from the Saudi regime.
In many ways, the move appears to be a face saving compromise for President Macron. France still maintains business and cultural connections to Lebanon and if the French President was unable to achieve anything for the “former” Lebanese PM by travelling to Saudi, it would have made France look impotent to Lebanese eyes, something which would be considered devastating in many French circles.
Now, it would appear that while France will guarantee Hariri’s safety, Saudi has insured that his political career, is at least for the time being, over.