RECENT: For ten days, the resigned Lebanese leader has been detained in Saudi Arabia by the powerful sponsors of the Sunni world.
"A particularly strange television interview" ... This comment on Twitter, accompanying the interview granted Sunday evening by Saad Hariri, nine days after his surprise resignation, sums up the completely new character of the crisis in which Lebanon is plunged. The story could be as much of a reality show as a spy movie. On Sunday, as rarely in such an exercise, the conduct of the interview was analyzed in the same way, if not more, than the words of the Prime Minister. It was a question of gauging the incredible scenario a resignation forced on Saad Hariri by the new strongman of Riyadh, Mohammed Ben Salman, aka MBS.
According to various testimonies collected in Lebanon and various sources quoted by Lebanese or foreign media, it is established that the Prime Minister brutally cut off contact with his closest advisers and that he had not warned anyone of his intention to resign, when he was summoned to Riyadh on 2 November. Upon his arrival, Saad Hariri would have been deprived of his phone, his smart watch, and treated without the respect due to his rank. When he appears on Saudi television at 2 pm on November 4, without his watch, it is obvious to those who know him that he is not the author of the statement of resignation read in a white voice. .
The Lebanese leader would then have spent one to two nights at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where Saudi princes accused of corruption by MBS are held, before returning to his villa, under high surveillance, and give scattered "signs of life", through social media interposed. A photo of him, received by the king, with his watch on his wrist, is then widely used to attest to the increasingly plausible hypothesis of a prime minister forced into his movements. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is one of the first to give public credit. Before the party of Saad Hariri and his family, revolted that Riyadh even asked them to accept his replacement at the foot of his eldest brother, Bahaa.
Strange TV moment
It is now also the official version of the Lebanese authorities. To the point that the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, has made known even before the broadcast of the interview, that he wondered in advance about the reliability of remarks not expressed, according to him, in complete freedom. This is why Paula Yaacoubian, the journalist of the Future TV, the chain belonging to the Hariri family, has, from the outset, had to work to prove the authenticity of the direct. Throughout the interview, she reported on information from outside, like the earthquake that rocked Iraq on Sunday night. "The climate is such that I suspect myself to participate in a staging," she said from the outset, before seeking to confront his interlocutor film events.
"Have you written your resignation letter yourself? Do you wear your watch today? Are you free to return to Lebanon? Have you been taken to the Ritz-Carlton? Why have you cut off all contact, including with your loved ones? "... To all these" questions, Saad Hariri has had answers designed to refute the thesis of any constraint exerted on him. But, beyond his words, everything in his attitude seemed to contradict his purpose. As well as Paula Yaacoubian's extreme solicitude towards his interlocutor, at a moment on the verge of tears - "take my glass of water I did not touch it" - totally defeated, incapable of the slightest sketch of a smile - "you're tired, you want to stop, give me a few more minutes"
One episode alone summarizes this strange television moment, described as humanly painful by many Lebanese, whether or not they approve of the political figure: the camera inadvertently captures the image of a man standing behind the interviewer, a white paper in the hands; then the dark look of Saad Hariri, eyes turned towards him. Messages broadcast live on Twitter believe read terror on his face and scaffold all kinds of scenarios on Saudi pressure exerted live on the Lebanese leader. After an advertising break, the latter felt compelled to make a denial.
In the end, the televised performance of the resigning Prime Minister did not contradict the story of events as it gradually became apparent over the course of the day, nor did his intervention completely clarify the situation on the ground. political plan. Saad Hariri said he would return to Beirut "in the coming days". It has not, however, fixed a specific date. Nor did he really justify his resignation, when he explained that he wanted to create a "positive shock, in the interest of Lebanon."
The Sunni leader has even mentioned the possibility of resuming his resignation, if Lebanon resolves to apply a real policy of "distancing" and neutrality in regional conflicts. A message that explicitly targets Hezbollah, ally and armed arm of Iran in the region, which has been openly intervening in Syria for months alongside President Bashar al-Assad and that Saudi Arabia is responsible for the missile launch launched by Yemeni Houthis against Riyad on 4 November. An act of war according to the authorities of the Saudi kingdom.
Willingness to de-escalate
These remarks have been variously interpreted in Beirut, while awaiting new messages from Saudi Arabia, where the Maronite patriarch Boutros Raï visited on Monday. For some, Saad Hariri's much more moderate tone towards Hezbollah, compared to his own at the time of his resignation, is a sign of a Saudi desire to de-escalate, even an open door to negotiations. For the others, even if the tone of the Lebanese Prime Minister resigning has changed, on the bottom the equation he poses remains insoluble, given the current state of the balance of power in Lebanon.