Hariri turns witness for MBS defense

One of the forgotten issues in the Middle East is that Lebanon has been without a government since May. On 9 October, Saad Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, said that if a government was not formed without 10 days he would resign. That hasn't happened and he still waiting. (Lebanese also has a complex power sharing structure so that all factions are represented in this complicated society).

The article below explains how Hariri is waiting for a call from MBS of Saudi Arabia- that is the Crown prince- and why it won't happen. It appeared in Al Monitor. It's worth having a read.

Hariri answers MBS's call

Last week, we wrote that Saad Hariri's earlier hesitation in forming a new government in Lebanon was the result of his waiting for a call from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which we assessed was not likely to come, as the crown prince was preoccupied with the international outcry over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2 at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

"Mohammed's plight," we suggested, "has been a kind of liberation for Hariri, who we wrote last year was 'his own witness in a court of conscience' following his captivity under the crown prince. Hariri now has one over his former patron and tormenter. The prime minister, who has kept his own counsel on the details of his captivity until now, could be a potential witness against Mohammed by testifying about the crown prince's previous behavior."

So much for that. The call came from the crown prince, commonly known by his initials MBS, and Hariri came running to his patron's defense. As leaders from around the world dropped off from taking part in the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh last week to avoid a photo op with MBS, Hariri appeared on a panel with the crown prince and even allowed himself to be the recipient of a wince-inducing ribbing from his host, who assured everyone that "Prime Minister Saad is staying in the kingdom for two days so I hope you don't spread rumors that he was kidnapped," because he could leave after the conference. Hariri replied, "with all my freedom" to the joke and laughter from the room, showing that he and MBS were friends till the end, no matter the incriminations over Khashoggi's murder, or even Hariri's own mistreatment last year, when he "was verbally humiliated and beaten, according to eight Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic sources," Reuters reminded us this week.

US President Donald Trump said on Oct. 23 that the murder of Khashoggi was the "worst cover-up ever." We would add that Hariri's detention and mistreatment last year at the hands of MBS may be a close second.
Hariri's latest humiliation in the kingdom, like the previous one, was not his alone. Most if not all of Lebanon probably cringed at the joke and laughter at the expense of its past and future prime minister. This past week was a setback for both Lebanon's dignity, and for the steady steps toward a new Lebanese social contract we have been covering. "But," we wrote on Sept. 30, "it requires a new type of prime minister, with a new and different profile, perhaps someone from outside of politics, beholden only to a vibrant and cross-sectarian Lebanese constituency. The March coalitions, rooted in identity politics and patronage, have had their day, and the record has been, at best, unremarkable and disappointing. Lebanon is showing it is capable of more, that it has the potential to be 'an incubator for a new approach to governance' based on accountability to the Lebanese and not to foreign capitals, and thereby a model for the region."

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018