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More complications in the region

Nov 05,2017 - Last updated at Nov 05,2017

The surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri is bound to complicate even more an already complex and tense situation in the region.

Hariri, who announced that he was stepping down while in Saudi Arabia, also said, in a televised broadcast, that he took the step because he feared for his life, and accused Iran of spreading fear and destruction in several countries, including Lebanon.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, has been serving as prime minister since December 2016. The country’s political system, designed in 1989 as per the Taif Agreement, stipulates that the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite. 

Hariri had served as a prime minister between 2009 and 2011 as well.

Now, his resignation, analysts say, may push Lebanon into a new political crisis; it may also be a manifestation of the regional Sunni-Shiite rivalry and fight for primacy.

“I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life,” said Hariri from the Saudi capital Riyadh, also mentioning that “we are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik Al Hariri”, his father who was assassinated in 2005 in an attack blamed on Shiite Hizbollah, whose main backer is Iran.

It was not so veiled an accusation. And if there were any doubts, he made a more direct reference to Iran and its followers, threatening that Lebanon would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it”.

When he took office, Hariri promised “a new era for Lebanon”, which had been in a political deadlock for two years. He indeed formed a coalition government that brought together most of Lebanon’s political parties, including Hizbollah.

His sudden departure from the political scene will complicate Lebanon’s politics and might feed into the regional struggle for power between the two main Muslim sects.

The rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran is clearly spilling over in certain countries, and unless these two regional powers can reach an accommodation of sorts, the Middle East is bound to face more turmoil and disruptions.

Iran has already extended its hegemony over Iraq, Lebanon and Syria; its deployment of forces in Iraq and Syria is a clear message that it is there for the long haul.

Having Lebanon plunged in chaos and instability can only exacerbate an already messy regional scene.

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