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Saad Hariri gives awkward interview to his own TV channel that many believe was staged

Hariri’s interview was fraught with contradictions, tears and clear physical unease.

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When Saad Hariri appeared on Saudi state-run Al Arabiya television last week to deliver his “resignation” as the Lebanese Prime Minister, many felt that Hariri, who is also a Saudi citizen was being forced to resign by the Saudi regime.

Several obvious inconsistencies were present in the original “resignation” speech. First and most strangely, he read a speech that was written in a Gulfi dialect of Arabic and instead of using familiar Lebanese terminology, he used Saudi terminology which is largely foreign among Lebanese viewers.

Secondly, his resignation from foreign soil is not only incompatible with Lebanese legal procedure, but it is highly unusual in any context.

Finally, as Hariri owns his own television channel, Lebanon based Future TV, it was considered strange that his speech was exclusively broadcast on a Saudi state-run network.

Further evidence which emerged led Lebanese President Michel Aoun to join with other Lebanese parties including Hezbollah, the Amal movement and some members of Hariri’s own Future Movement to say that Hariri had been kidnapped by Saudi authorities and is being held against his will.

Lebanese President demands “former” PM Hariri return from Saudi Arabia

Last night’s interview from Saudi Arabian soil on Hariri’s Future TV was designed to assuage the fears that Hariri is a political hostage, but the interview left many more questions than answers.

Of the many perplexing answers Hariri gave, when asked why no one is able to contact him, he stated that it is becomes he is in “personal meditation”. This answer however, proved deeply unsatisfactory as even close personal colleagues have had no way of contacting Hariri, in spite of his high profile.

Also, while he assured the cameras that he is a free man and will come to Lebanon in a “matter of days” this vague timeline has led many to think that the statement was forced. Furthermore, when he said this, a shadow of a man was visible in the broadcast, with some indicating that Saudi handlers were putting pressure on Hariri to stick to a script even in the midst of the interview which Future TV’s representatives refused to confirm was live.

While continually gulping down glasses of water, Hariri appeared flustered and at one point even appeared to break down in tears.

While Hariri’s assertions that Hezbollah and “the Syrian regime” intend to kill him, claims which have not been supported by any evidence and which have been roundly debunked by the politically neutral Lebanese security services, Hariri’s body language rather than his seemingly Saudi authored statements, were the talk of Arabic social media in the aftermath of the puzzling interview.

When it comes to Hariri’s future there are several possible options.

1. Hariri remains in Saudi and Lebanon moves on 

In many ways, this is starting to look like the most realistic option. While Hariri claims he will return to Lebanon, this statement has been met with near universal scepticism. In other words, until people see it, they won’t believe it.

On the surface, this may still be an acceptable solution for Lebanon. While many predicted that the fragile multi-party Lebanese coalition government would collapse upon Hariri’s “resignation”, in reality, Lebanese parties from across the political spectrum, with only some scant exceptions, have remained committed to the coalition and rule of law in Lebanon. The mature response of Lebanese politicians was not something that Saudi Arabia and other who may have been behind the forced “resignation”, such as Israel, may have accounted for.

If Hariri does not return in the near future, Beirut’s relations with Riyadh will be deeply strained in the near future, but this might also have an unexpected positive effect of helping Lebanon to protect her sovereignty and national dignity with more strength than in previous years.

2. Hariri comes to Lebanon and causes trouble 

Hariri indicated in his interview that he may rescind his resignation if groups like Hezbollah commit to remaining neutral in conflicts such as the Syrian war against terrorism. This demand is unrealistic, unacceptable to Hezbollah and not practical for Lebanon as Hezbollah’s aid of the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against terrorism, has helped secure Lebanon from attacks by Takfiri terrorist groups. This is something that is acknowledged either openly or privately by Lebanese of many sectarian stripes.

If Hariri does return and attempt to sow discord in the coalition by effectively waging a pro-Saudi sectarian political war, this could in fact lead to the political instability in Lebanon that thus far has been avoided.

However, if he did return and try to force Hezbollah out of the coalition with ridiculous demands, it would once and for all, expose the fact that Hariri was lying about fears for his safety at the hands of “Hezbollah, Iran and Syria”. After all, someone returning to Lebanon to ‘take on’ Hezbollah isn’t afraid, but is arrogant.

3. Hariri comes to Lebanon and resigns in disgrace 

Hariri’s star which was never particularly big and which in any case relied on the legacy of his more experienced father, is tarnished in Lebanon, perhaps beyond repair. Unless he were to come to Lebanon and denounce Saudi for kidnapping him, something which at this point seems unlikely given the amount of personal business Hariri conducts in Saudi (albeit with many purged Princes), he may be seen as more of a disgraced political liability than a ‘returned hero’.

The reason that most Lebanese are demanding his return is not a sign of support for Hariri’s policies, let alone his apparently subservient attitude to the Saudi regime, but because the kidnapping of a Prime Minister by a foreign power, is a matter of principle and national dignity.

If Lebanese and wider international pressure results in a return of Hariri, Lebanon will have won a moral victory, but Hariri himself will still be widely seen as something of a “loser”, to borrow Donald Trump’s favourite epithet.

Because of this, Hariri may find that his career in front line Lebanese politics may be incredibly diminished when he returns, at least in the immediate future. The leader of the Future Movement, is in this sense, already a thing of the past, in spite of his youth.

Conclusion: 

Saad Hariri’s interview was likely staged and the “freedom” he claimed he had was almost certainly an exaggeration at best, if not an outright lie. Because information from Saudi is so scant, only Hariri’s departure from Saudi Arabia will provide the penultimate evidence of his alleged freedom or perhaps better put, the end of his captivity.

The coming days may reveal more about Hariri’s true condition, but for now, the infamous interview has left the world none the wiser when it comes to what Saudi Arabia is actually doing to the effectively deposed Lebanese Premier.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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