Lebanese PM Hariri denounces Hezbollah criticism

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019

Lebanese PM Hariri denounces Hezbollah criticism

  • Beirut's relations with Arab countries are not subject to the whims of some parties, he said

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has given his view on a number of recent controversies, including the Tripoli terrorist attack and attitudes toward refugees from neighboring Syria, which have shaken the settlement between him and the President Michel Aoun.

He also denounced criticism of Lebanon’s position at the recent Makkah summit of Arab leaders, particularly the statement made by Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, noting that “Lebanon cannot be run by slips of tongues and hiccups.”

“Anger among Sunnis cannot be considered non-existent; it is a reality and it is the result of positions taken by key partners,” Hariri said.

“Lebanon’s relations with Arab countries are not subject to the whims of some (parties),” he added, stressing that “the first line of the constitution states that Lebanon is an Arab country, so it is worth noting that when a prime minister delivers a speech, he does so on behalf of Lebanon.

“I went to the Makkah summit and agreed to its decisions in the name of Lebanon. My position and speech at the summit go in line with the ministerial statement. The ones that think otherwise should go back to the decisions of previous summits and see who is truly violating the principle of disassociation.

“We should not put Arab countries and Saudi Arabia in a position of rivalry with Lebanon. It about time that we understand that the interests of the country should come before our personal and political interests and our loyalty to Lebanon should always come first.”

Hariri also addressed the controversy that arose at the weekend involving the Free Patriotic Movement, after it released a video in support of a campaign encouraging businesses to hire Lebanese nationals rather than foreigners, sparking allegations of racism. Subsequent comments on Twitter by party leader, and Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, provoked further criticism.

“I was very upset with the words (from the party’s) head, (Foreign) Minister Gebran Bassil,” said Hariri. “I wish the negation came immediately because the repercussions were very bad and they put us in an unacceptable position.

Hariri also criticized the decision by a court in May to acquit Lt. Col. Suzanne Hajj, who was charged with fabricating evidence against actor Ziad Itani, who was falsely accused of spying for Israel.

“It is unacceptable that a certain judge does what he pleases,” said Hariri. “There has been an interference in the judiciary. Nobody should cover for the mistake and I will not keep silent in this regard. The government made a mistake.”

Hariri then talked about terrorist Abdul Rahman Mabsout, who shot and killed two police officers and two soldiers last week during attacks on a bank, a police station and an army vehicle before blowing himself up. He had been detained after returning to Lebanon from Syria in 2016 but released the following year.

“Imprisoning him for a year and a half was not wrong; what was wrong is not properly monitoring him after his release,” said Hariri.

Finally, as debates continue regarding the 2019 draft budget, Hariri asked those blocking it: “Do you want the outcome of the Cedar Conference or not? Do you want McKinsey’s plan or not? Do you want our Arab brothers to come back or not?”

International donors pledged about $11 billion to Lebanon during the Cedar Conference in Paris in April last year, in return for which Hariri vowed to cut the country’s budget deficit. In July, global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. published a 1000-page report setting out its vision for Lebanon’s economy, with a view to unlocking that international investment.

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 


Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.