Hariri reiterates he will soon be back in Lebanon

Saad Hariri. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2017

Hariri reiterates he will soon be back in Lebanon

BEIRUT: In his second tweet in less than 24 hours, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri confirmed again that “he is doing really, really well and he will return to his beloved Lebanon soon, as he had promised.”

Hariri’s stay in Riyadh for the 12th day after the announcement of his resignation from there has raised many questions in Lebanon, although Hariri had insisted in a televised interview broadcast live on Sunday that he wanted “his resignation to be a positive shock.” Hariri said the main reason behind his resignation was that “Iran and Hezbollah seized control of the Lebanese state.”

“We are living in circumstances that are similar to what prevailed before the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005, and I sensed that something was being plotted to target my life,” he said.

Hariri’s older brother said he supports his brother’s decision to step down over the growing demands and actions of Hezbollah. In a statement from Bahaa Hariri’s office sent to The Associated Press, he accuses Hezbollah of seeking “to take control of Lebanon.” He also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for “decades of support” for Lebanon’s national institutions.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun raised many questions about Hariri staying in Riyadh and not returning to Lebanon, adding that Lebanon had “taken all the necessary measures to secure the return of Prime Minister Hariri.”

Aoun called on the media to “contribute to the consolidation of national unity that was plainly manifested during the last few days.” In the framework of his consultations with political, national and economic actors, President Aoun told the president and members of the National Audiovisual Council and the owners of audio-visual media outlets, whom he received in Baabda’s Presidential Palace yesterday, that “the prime minister is being detained in Saudi Arabia for no reason and his return should be undertaken with dignity.”

Aoun reiterated that “he rejects Hariri’s resignation as long as the Lebanese PM has not returned to Lebanon, because he later has to fulfill his national duties toward his country in which he was appointed as prime minister. Everyone knows that Prime Minister Hariri is a person who fully bears his national responsibilities and it is not usual from him to commit such mistakes.”

However, President Aoun tried to lower the level of his speech’s intensity through a statement issued by former minister Elias Bou Saab after his visit to Aoun on Wednesday night. Bou Saab said that “the reason that led the President to take these positions about the PM’s detention in Saudi Arabia, stems from his keenness on the return of Prime Minister Hariri to fulfill his political and constitutional duties.”

Bou Saab, member of the Change and Reform bloc, formerly led by Michel Aoun, said that the President told him that he was keen on “protecting and preserving the Lebanese-Saudi relations from any chaos or disorder, especially as President Aoun considers that what happened to Hariri could be exploited to harm the Lebanese-Saudi relations.

“In this context, I would like to confirm that President Michel Aoun is very keen on protecting, developing and strengthening the Lebanese-Saudi relations, especially as his first official visit during his tenure was to Saudi Arabia,” Bou Saab said.

He said that Aoun “had called on the Saudi Chargé d’Affaires, Waleed Bukhari, to provide some clarifications about Hariri’s situation, circumstances of resignation and his stay abroad. Six days have passed and President Aoun has not heard back from Saudi officials, and thus the mystery about Hariri’s situation is increasing and so are the rumors about his fate.”

MP Okab Sakr, member of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, said: “I appreciate the position of President Aoun and Lebanese leaders who are worried about PM Saad Hariri. However, he is not detained. He is in his house in Riyadh with his family, and this is something he reiterated several times.”

Sakr stressed in a statement that “Hariri will be back soon — really soon — to Lebanon and he did not set a date for his return for security purposes.”

“He can take his private jet now and fly back to Lebanon, but his return is being arranged on the political and security levels with Saudi Arabia, to avoid any negative repercussions in Lebanon,” Sakr said.

MP Fadi Karam, member of the Lebanese Forces bloc tweeted: “They insist on focusing on Hariri’s return because they had escaped their sovereign responsibilities. They object to the Saudi interference in Lebanon, conveniently forgetting the wickedness of the Iranian interference in all Lebanese issues. We can clearly see who needs to be set free.”

Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malek Al-Chaar said that “everything addressed to PM Saad Hariri, and especially what is being said about his situation in Saudi Arabia as if he was detained or exiled, aims to target the Saudi Kingdom.” He stressed “the need to address the reasons behind Hariri’s resignation instead of its timing and place, and as soon as he gets back to Lebanon, he will reveal everything.” Chaar thought that Hariri said things as they were, during the televised interview.

The Mufti said that “the strongly worded statements against the Kingdom are not expressing their concern about Hariri’s dignity as much as they aim to make people forget about the reasons that led to the resignation. This is not in the interest of the Lebanese people. They should be thinking about the reasons behind the resignation calmly and wisely without challenging others, because we want to build a state and not to fight one another.”

From tourism to terrorism: How the revolution changed Iran

Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi with his third wife Farah and their son Reza (left). Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right). (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

From tourism to terrorism: How the revolution changed Iran

  • Forty years ago on Wednesday, the shah went into exile and less than a month later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini assumed power
  • His departure paved the way for the establishment of an Islamic republic hostile to Arab Gulf states

DUBAI: Forty years ago today, Iran’s then-shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, fled the country after a 37-year reign, in the first stage of a revolution that would replace 2,500 years of monarchy with an Islamic republic.

Prior to the revolution, Iran very much resembled Western countries, with a flourishing economy and tourists flocking to the country for its breath-taking landscapes, beaches and various activities, including hiking and skiing. 

The shah’s departure, prompted by mass protests, paved the way for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return from exile in France, assuming power on Feb. 11, 1979. 

It was “a genuine social revolution against tyranny, domestic and foreign — the first represented by the shah and the second by… the US,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College in Abu Dhabi.

“The revolution went awry when religious leaders dominated the government, imposed its version of Islam and eliminated their partners in the revolution, including Iranian nationalists.”

Not long after Khomeini took over, the world got a taste of the new regime. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were taken hostage on Nov. 4, 1979, and were held for 444 days, after a group of Iranian students who supported the revolution took over the US Embassy in Tehran. 

The Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980 and lasted for eight years, contributed to the deterioration of Iran’s situation. 

“Fear of the new regime’s attempt to export the revolution to a Shiite-majority neighbor led Iraq to initiate the war,” Al-Shateri said. 

“However, Iran’s insistence on continuing the war until the toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussein exacted a heavy cost on both countries in human and economic terms,” he added. 

“Iran had legitimate grievances against the US, but the way it tried to redress these gripes was counterproductive.”

The shah was considered one of the best customers of the US defense industry. But his Western-inspired reforms sparked turbulent social change that aggravated the clergy, while his consolidation of power and the secret police gave him the reputation of a dictator.

Opposition to his reign and corruption among Tehran’s elite created an influential alliance of radical Islamists. 

Although Pahlavi tried to modernize Iran, driving up oil prices in the early 1970s and implementing reforms in education and health care, he became alienated among Iranians and angered the conservative clergy, who helped drive his exile. 

“Iran changed significantly from before the revolution to after, from a more civil, open and decent Iran to a closed, aggressive and sectarian one,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences. 

“Post-1979 Iran is deeply sectarian, and is not only responsible for sharpening the Sunni-Shiite divide, but also wholly responsible for politicizing and militarizing it,” he added.

Iran “has funded and armed Shiite militias, and has done everything possible to strengthen them so they can challenge the nation-state, Lebanon being a clear example.” 

Post-1979 Iran does not “play by the rules of the game,” Abdulla added. “It became radical, revolutionary and sectarian, and was about to become nuclear, which is deeply destabilizing.”

He said: “Gulf states have lived with Iran for thousands of years, and they knew how to deal with it all along. They had the best possible neighborly relationship, but it has always been a difficult Iran, whether under the shah or Khomeini.”

Abdulla added: “We’ve never seen an Iran that has become the number-one terrorist country in the world except in the last 40 years.”

Mark Katz, professor of government and politics at the Schar School of Police and Government at George Mason University in the US, said: “Unlike the shah’s Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran sought to export its revolution to other Muslim countries, especially the Arab Gulf ones.” He added: “Still, it must be remembered that the shah’s Iran was also fairly aggressive. It seized Abu Musa and the Tunbs (islands) right when the British were leaving the Trucial States and the UAE was being formed. It had also laid claim to Bahrain.” 

Furthermore, while the shah’s troops helped defend Oman against a South Yemeni-backed Marxist insurgency in the 1970s, Katz said the presence of those Iranian troops in Oman was unsettling to Saudi Arabia in particular. 

“The shah had also got the best of Iraq in their border rivalry — something that Saddam Hussein sought to reverse after the Iranian revolution,” he added. 

Before the revolution, the shah’s Iran often behaved “aggressively toward its Arab neighbors, but its close cooperation with the US against the Soviet Union, which Iran bordered and the Gulf Arab states didn’t, meant that Washington wasn’t willing to act against the shah for doing so,” Katz said. By contrast, the rise of an anti-American government after the revolution led to the US working with Arab Gulf states against Iran. 

“Because the Islamic Republic behaved in such a hostile manner, both toward the Gulf Arabs as well as the US, the 1979 revolution led to the isolation and containment of Iran for many years,” Katz said. 

“Although it may seem counterintuitive, Iran may have posed a far greater problem for the Gulf Arabs if the… revolution hadn’t taken place, because if it hadn’t and Western investment in Iran continued or even grew, there would’ve been a tendency for Tehran to assert — and the US to value — an Iranian effort to be the leader in the Gulf in collaboration with the US.”