Following media reports that Saudi Arabia is interested in replacing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri with his elder brother Bahaa Hariri, the elder brother has issued his first public statement, praising the Saudis and angrily condemning Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah party.
Saad Hariri visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month. He was met at the airport by security, and shortly thereafter was given a Saudi-composed statement resigning from his post. He’s not left Saudi Arabia since, and reports suggest members of his influential family has been getting calls from the Saudis urging them to come to Riyadh to pledge allegiance to his brother Bahaa.
The Saudis are said to be mad the younger Hariri was refusing to split the government, which includes the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah. Bahaa Hariri is apparently more willing to play ball, but it’s not at all clear, given Lebanon’s historic arrangement of Sunni, Shi’ite, and Christian political figures in each government, that Hezbollah can be sidelined on a whim let alone that Hariri can be simply swapped out for a fresh Hariri the Saudis like better.
The Hariri family has deep economic interests in Saudi Arabia, and Bahaa Hariri is a billionaire in his own right, separated from the family business. He has not previously been substantially involved in politics.
The fate of Saad Hariri remains unclear. He was reported earlier this week to be leaving Saudi Arabia and returning to Lebanon “in days,” though Wednesday’s reports suggested he was headed to France, with rumors he might be going into “exile” there.