Lebanon faces crisis in relations with Gulf countries

Lebanon is facing a crisis in its relations with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab backers, whose trade and financial support it desperately needs. Criticism by Lebanon’s cabinet minister over Saudi military involvement in Yemen is at the center of a diplomatic dispute playing out in a regional competition for supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia expelled the Lebanese ambassador, recalled its envoy in Beirut, and banned imports from Lebanon after comments broadcast by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi. Just before Kordahi became a cabinet member in September, he defended Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who receive training from Hezbollah. He said Yemen was described as a foreign invasion – an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf allies have responded by withdrawing their ambassadors from Lebanon and expelling the envoys from Beirut. The Arab League has expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of relations.

Kordahi is a member of a minor Christian party affiliated with Shia Hezbollah. Knowing that his government is fragile, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged Kordahi to “put his patriotic spirit above all else” to ease the crisis.

Meanwhile, influential Catholic Maronite Patriarch Poor Boutros al-Rahi and others see Kordahi’s comments and refusal to resign as harming Lebanon’s national interests. Kordahi says the remarks were made before his government took office.

Dania Kolilat Khateeb, a political analyst with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, told VOA that the Gulf countries have a substantial Hezbollah hold on Lebanon.

“Mikati was so hoping that the French would like to turn over the Gulf’s hand and get money from them. It’s not just Kordahi, it’s about dealing with this government that is controlled by Hezbollah. Hezbollah will not resign until Kordahi Will give, till they get something. If Kordahi resigns, he will look weak,” Khatib said.

Analysts say Mikati faces an uphill task in trying to re-establish ties with the Gulf countries.

Trade and financial aid from the Gulf once reached billions of dollars. Lebanon cannot expect this from Iran. A shipment of Lebanese pomegranates bound for Saudi Arabia in the spring, loaded with more than 5 million amphetamine-type pills produced in the Hezbollah-run Beqa Valley, known as Captagon, put a stop to that lucrative trade. In which Saudi Arabia banned all Lebanese fruits. and vegetables.

Veteran Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblat has warned that Iran-backed groups will benefit from Saudi Arabia’s move away from Lebanon, which is suffering from severe economic and political crises.

“Leaving” Lebanon would make Hezbollah stronger, he recently told Dubai’s The National. Observers say Tehran’s regional representatives, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, are also risking a possible thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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