His resignation — which he blamed on pressure from Iran and its Lebanese Shiite proxy, Hezbollah — stunned Lebanon and the wider region and raised fears the country would plunge again into factional turmoil.
But Lebanese officials had said Hariri, who is a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, had been forced to resign by Saudi authorities and was unable to move or speak freely from Riyadh. Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, said Wednesday that Hariri was a “hostage,” and that his government would not accept such an “attack on Lebanese sovereignty.”
…But as Shiite Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni, have competed for influence in the region, the threat of upheaval in Lebanon intensified. Iran has long backed Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful political and military movement, and which is key to Iranian regional reach.
…For its part, Riyadh has sought to bolster Hariri and his Sunni bloc in Lebanon, and have fought what Saudi officials claim are Iranian proxy forces in Yemen. Iran denies having direct links to the Houthi forces in Yemen that drove out the Saudi-backed president in 2015.