Saudi Arabia expels Lebanese ambassador over minister’s Yemen comments

The government of Saudi Arabia have expelled the Lebanese ambassador to their country, following comments made by a Lebanese politician on Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen. Ambassador Fawzi Kabbara was given 48 hours to leave the country, following backlash to comments by Lebanon’s Information Minister, George Kordahi. Mr Kordahi caused controversy when he argued the war in Yemen was “pointless and should stop”. Following this, the Saudi government also recalled their own ambassador from Lebanon.

Mr Kordahi made his comments in an interview with an affiliate of Al-Jazeera before his appointment to Minister of Information this September. He argued that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the agressors in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military intervention in Yemen since 2015 against Houthi rebels, who Mr Kordahi argues are simply fighting in self-defence

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said this Saturday (October 30) that Mr Kordahi’s opinion did not represent the view of the government. He argued “one of our government’s priorities is working to restore relations and historical ties between Lebanon and its Arab brothers”. Despite this, not only has Saudi Arabia expelled Mr Kabbara, but Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have expelled their respective Lebanese ambassadors.

A main concern for these governments is the rising influence of Shiite organization Hezbollah in Lebanon. Saudi news agency SPA argued: “The control of the terrorist Hezbollah on the decision-making of the Lebanese state made Lebanon an arena for implementing projects for countries that don’t wish Lebanon and it’s people well”. As part of this thinking, the Saudi government followed the expulsion of Ambassador Kabbara with the banning of all imports from Lebanon, and the banning of Saudi citizens from travelling to Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry argue these decisions have been taken due to what it calls a failure by Lebanon to stop the smuggling of drugs in Lebanese products. The Saudi authorities are trying clearly to place the blame squarely on Hezbollah’s shoulders, as are some Lebanese politicians. For example former prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri argues: “The responsibility, first and foremost, in this regard, lies with Hezbollah, and its professed hostility towards the Arabs and the Arab Gulf states”.

Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

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