According to a new report, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was heavily pressured into resigning in November by members of the Saudi Arabian government and the Crown Prince.
His resignation was a bid to diminish Iranian influence and spark a regional crisis.
Hariri, suddenly and unexpectedly, announced his resignation on November 4 while on a visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh
The Mail Online reports: Officials close to him told the New York Times that he was under heavy duress from the Saudi Arabian government, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, when he made that announcement.
Mohammed bin Salman allegedly subjected Hariri to demeaning pressure and pre-wrote his resignation speech, which blamed Iran for the departure.
The government also allegedly held the Lebanese official captive to be sure he would go through with the resignation.
By blaming Iran, Saudi Arabian officials hoped to diminish Iranian influence in the region, including the power of Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah, according to the report.
The officials also hoped that the action would spark a regional crisis, according to the Times.
After facing backlash from Lebanon and Western governments Saudi Arabia finally allowed Hariri to return home, where he quickly withdrew his resignation.
Hariri followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming prime minister and has strong ties to Saudi Arabia. His father was former Prime Minister Rafik Harari, and was killed in 2005.
Hariri has dual Saudi Arabian citizenship, was born there and has a lot of money in business holdings in the country.
So the country considers him a crucial ally to Lebanon – where oil-rich Sunni regional powers compete with Iran for influence over the state.
Hariri currently governs in a coalition including Hezbollah and allied figures, including President Michel Aoun.
Saudi Arabia reportedly started becoming frustrated with Hariri’s unwillingness to keep Iranian influence at bay.
A day after Hariri had an amicable meeting with a top Iranian official on November 3 – Saudi Arabia asked the Prime Minister to come to Riyadh to spend a day with the crown prince in the desert.
Hariri was summoned for an early morning meeting with the prince, at which time Saudi Officials ‘manhandled,’ him, confiscated his cell phone and took away all but one bodyguard, according to the Times report.
That afternoon Hariri delivered his pre-written resignation speech on Saudi television, according to the report.
France, the United States and Egypt all quickly stepped in – and Hariri was sent back to Lebanon.
A Saudi official told the times that Hariri was ‘treated with utmost respect,’ and Hariri hasn’t responded to requests for comment.
Mohammed bin Salman, 32, escalated Saudi Arabia’s role in the Brutal war in Yemen even before he took the crown.
In Yemen he ordered a Saudi-led bombing campaign and shipping blockade to dislodege Houti rebels, an Iranian-aligned group. The attack has created a humanitarian crisis in the country.
The prince also arrested a massive number of rich Saudi businessman and other officials in November to ‘root out corruption.’
Observers said Mohammed Bin Salman’s aim was actually to consolidate power and silence critics, as some of the arrestees were political rivals.
President Donald Trump has treated the Saudi government warmly in general – and specifically the crown prince.
He tweeted his approval for Mohammed bin Salman’s purge in November, saying he had ‘great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.’
And Jared Kushner, the senior Trump adviser and president’s son-in-law, has a notably close relationship with Mohammed bin Salman.
He visited him in October and according to the Washington Post they stayed up until 4am discussing strategy.