Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital Saturday, accusing Hezbollah of taking the country hostage, in a surprise move that plunged the nation into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.
Hariri shot a ferocious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”
“The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it,” Hariri said, accusing Tehran.
During Hariri’s reign, the government has largely succeeded in protecting the country from the effects of the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than two years of presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.
His election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint him as prime minister.
In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri’s return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly, the presidential office said in a statement.
Hariri’s resignation was predictable to raise tensions in the country and ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability. It comes in the midst of a sharp escalation in Saudi rhetoric against its regional archrival Iran.
In his speech, he suggested he feared for his life and said the climate in the country is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.
Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia for the killing by a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Hezbollah denies any involvement.
Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s government. The group’s intervention in Syria is highly controversial in Lebanon.
Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.
Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week. Hariri abruptly returned to the kingdom later Friday before his crackling announcement Saturday.