Saudi Arabia Probably Took Lebanon's PM Hostage: Report

Remember how Saad Hariri looked like a hostage while announcing his resignation in November? Well, that's because he probably was one.

In November, a number of significant events unfolded in the Middle East, such as the arrest of a more than a dozen Saudi royals, businessmen and politicians as well as Riyadh's blockade of Yemen, which led to around 80 percent of Yemen on the brink of starvation.

However, one incident that was equally crucial, and didn't make as many headlines, was that of the abrupt - and fairly short-lived - resignation by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

In a bizarre televised speech, on Saudi state-run media, Hariri announced his announced he would quit just 11 months after assuming his office for the second time. He blamed Iran for causing "disorder and destruction" in Lebanon and also slammed Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed movement with a military wing based in southern Lebanon.

Many, at the time, remarked Hariri, a known Saudi ally, looked like a hostage reading off from a teleprompter. A new report reveals it appeared so because Hariri might actually have been a hostage.

Citing accounts of Lebanese, Western and regional officials, as well as other sources close to Hariri, The New York Times reports Hariri announced his resignation under duress from Saudi authorities.

According to The Times, Hariri was preparing for what he believed was a desert camping trip when he was taken to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Lebanese leader was "stripped of his cellphones, separated from all but one of his usual cluster of bodyguards, and shoved and insulted by Saudi security officers." He was then handed a pre-written document, which he was forced to read on Saudi television.

Therefore, widespread speculation, at the time, surrounding Saudi pressure and Hariri's unexpected resignation were not completely unfounded.

As previously expected, the move, on Riyadh's part, was yet another attempt to counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East, primarily targeting Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It didn't work out, though, as planned.

Hariri's resignation prompted international outrage over fears the move could spark unrest in Lebanon. Consequently, he shelved his decision.

Not a lot has changed in the political situation in Lebanon since Hariri's return, but The Times' latest report confirms Riyadh is frantically trying to diminish the influence of its regional rival and that all of Hariri's decisions may not necessarily be his own.

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