Diplomatic Rift Between Lebanon and the Gulf
- On October 25, a video clip of Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi circulated the internet making critical comments about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war.
- The clip was from the Al-Jazeera show “Barlaman Sha’ab” (People’s Parliament).
- He claimed that the war is “absurd” and that the Houthis, a Yemeni political armed group, allegedly tied to Iran, are defending themselves. Saudi Arabia is actively in an armed conflict with the Houthis.
- Kordahi also stated that the war has become protracted, claiming, “What couldn’t be achieved within two or three years, you won’t achieve it within eight years. So this has become an absurd war, that’s my opinion.”
- The video was recorded on August 5, over a month before Lebananese Prime Minister Najib Mikati included Kordahi in his cabinet.
- Both Mikati and Kordahi adamantly denied that Kordahi’s comments reflected the views of the Lebanese government.
- Mikati has emphasized that Lebanon wants to improve its relations with the Gulf States.
- As a result, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait expelled Lebanese ambassadors from their countries, and Saudi Arabia halted all imports to Lebanon.
- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait also instructed their ambassadors to return to their respective countries.
- Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that Saudi Arabia was no longer interested in dealing with Lebanon because the country’s politics are dominated by Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
- Kordahi refused to follow Mikati’s call to resign in order to “do the right thing” for Lebanon.
- Kordahi received praise from Hezbollah officials for standing up to the Gulf states.
- An Arab League delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki, traveled to Beirut to meet with the Lebanese government to help come up with a diplomatic solution.
- The diplomatic rift between Lebanon and the Gulf states worsens economic prospects for Lebanon. Lebanon relies on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states for many of its imports and exports, as well as cash remittances from the Lebanese diaspora in the region. The political rift is causing economic repercussions for Lebanon, which finds itself in the worst economic crisis in the country’s history. For Saudi Arabia, the rift exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s waning patience towards Lebanon as Iranian-backed Hezbollah makes it hard for the kingdom to gain influence in Beirut.