Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia are heading for confrontation - further protests planned in Beirut

13 Jan. 2022 21:37 Uhr

Hezbollah is holding a conference for Saudi opposition members to provoke the oil-rich kingdom. As the war of words between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia intensifies, the reports of economic grievances in Lebanon continue. The entire power grid collapsed in Lebanon at the weekend, and the transport unions have already called for protests.

Against the background of the recent war of words between Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and the Saudi ambassador Walid Buchari in Beirut, the Hezbollah movement held a conference for Saudi opposition members on Wednesday in their stronghold south of Beirut in order to provoke the oil-rich kingdom.

The gathering took place while the Lebanese government is trying to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, which hit a new low in October 2021. The kingdom recalled its ambassador from Beirut in late October and banned all imports from Lebanon. This was preceded by a criticism of the Saudi military operation in Yemen by the Lebanese information minister George Kordahi.

In a speech in early January, the Hezbollah head accused Saudi Arabia of exporting terrorism, and he blamed Saudi Arabia for sending Saudi suicide bombers to Syria and Iraq, as well as for the war in Yemen. The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati promptly distanced himself from Nasrallah’s remarks. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Bukhari, also responded immediately after Nasrallah’s speech with a tweet describing the Hezbollah leader’s comments as “lies that are not hidden in the dark”.

The conference on Wednesday was attended by Saudi opposition officials and members of the Iran-backed Ansarullah movement (Houthi militias) in Yemen. It was intended to commemorate the death of the influential Saudi Shiite cleric and civil rights activist Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed along with 47 people in a mass execution in the kingdom in January 2016. Al-Nimr was an outspoken critic of the government and one of the main leaders of the Shiite protests in eastern Saudi Arabia in 2011, which called for more rights in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

Beirut-based Saudi activist Ali Hashem told The Associated Pressthat government critics annually commemorate the anniversary of the assassination of Al-Nimr. When asked about the purpose of his participation in the event, he replied: “To overthrow the Saudi regime.” Shortly after the event, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon announced that the “painful truth” was that Hezbollah was operating across the Lebanese state.

Heavy gun battles in Beirut: is Lebanon heading for civil war?

As the war of words between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia intensifies, the bad news about the economic situation in Lebanon continues. At the same time, parliamentary elections are due in the country on May 15th. The exchange rate of the local currency reached a further low at the beginning of the year: 30.00 Lebanese pounds had to be paid for one US dollar on the black market. The country is struggling, among other things, with gasoline and drug shortages as well as nationwide power outages.

In addition, reports recently circulated that the transport unions had called for protests. Lebanese truck and bus drivers blocked road junctions in Beirut on Thursday in protest against the economic crisis. Traffic reportedly stalled in large parts of the country.

In Lebanon, the entire power grid collapsed at the weekend. The state energy company EDL blamed protesters critical of the government for this. Rioters had previously stormed an important distribution station and damaged the technology there. The outage came at a time when hours of power outages are already the order of the day. President Michel Aoun has already tried to mobilize the numerous political groups and interest groups to hold a national dialogue conference, but the talks have so far stalled and the idea was only supported by close allies.

more on the subject – Crises, violence, unrest: Lebanon as a legacy of western adventurism

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