Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation has rattled Tehran. Many Iranian officials, analysts and media outlets warn that the Lebanese prime minister’s resignation is part of a broader strategy by the United States and its regional allies – particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia – to counter the growing influence of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East. Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, accusing Iran and its ally Hezbollah of destabilizing Lebanon and the region. He also expressed the fear about an assassination plot against him.
·Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, of being behind Hariri’s resignation. This is perhaps because Kushner visited the kingdom recently.
·The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman called Hariri’s allegations against Iran as “baseless” and warned that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States were “creating a new tension in Lebanon and the region.”
·Hossein Sheikholeslam, an advisor to Zarif, echoed a similar view. “Hariri’s resignation is planned by U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to destabilize Lebanon and the region.” He said Hariri’s resignation “is not good news for Lebanon” – warning that the United States and its allies are using Hariri as an instrument to weaken the “resistance front.”
·Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council and former chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), claimed Hariri resigned under pressure from Saudi Arabia, and warned about new “adventurism” by America, Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran in the region.
·Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief commander of the I.R.G.C., also responded to Hariri’s resignation, rejecting the Lebanese prime minister’s allegations and calling Hariri a “stooge” of Saudi Arabia.
The Iranian media also voiced alarm about Hariri’s resignation and warned that it demonstrates that the United States and its allies are stepping up efforts to roll back Iran’s influence in the region.
·Tabnak News Agency, which is affiliated Mohsen Rezaei, opined that Hariri’s resignation “is certainly related to the new strategy announced by Trump against Iran and Hezbollah.”
·Donya-e Eghtesad, a reformist daily focusing on economic issues, warned that Lebanon may yet again become a place for fierce confrontation between regional and international powers. “Is Lebanon the first phase of Trump’s strategy against Iran?” the outlet asked.
Iranian analysts expressed a similar concern.
·Hassan Hani-Zadeh, an international affairs expert, told Khabar Online that “Hariri’s resignation is a plot against Iran and Hezbollah.” He said the next step will be to pressure Lebanese President Michel Aoun to exclude Hezbollah and its allies from the cabinet.
·Javid Ghorban Oghli, a former deputy foreign minister, wrote an article in reformist Shargh daily, entitled “Saudi Arabia’s Conflict with Iran in Lebanon.” The former Iranian diplomat predicted that Hariri’s resignation is “the beginning of dangerous security and military actions by Israel.” He pointed out that Israeli Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that the Israeli military is ready for a military confrontation with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. Oghli also cautioned that Israel may even launch a military invasion of Lebanon to dismantle Hezbollah. “If this happens, it will also engulf Iran.” He called on the Rouhani government to take preemptive measures to avoid a crisis in Lebanon that would drag Iran into another conflict. The former Iranian diplomat also blamed the country’s diplomatic and intelligence agencies for failing to discover Hariri’s plan to resign. He noted that Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s top aide, met with Hariri in Beirut just a day before the Lebanese prime minister resigned.
·An article in Jahan-e Sanat said Hariri’s resignation is part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to roll back Iran’s influence in the region.