Despite escalating tensions, a wave of political turnover on Saturday, and a tweet from The Jerusalem Post claiming Lebanon has declared war on Saudi Arabia, no official war declaration has been made—yet.
Here’s the tweet:
The tweet in question, posted this afternoon on The Jerusalem Post’s account, is a poor summarization of a quote from a Saudi Arabian minister, but it has been quickly quoted and retweeted across the web thousands of times, including a retweet from a White House correspondent for The New York Times with over 658,000 followers, a reporter for CNN’s mobile investigations team, and a former Congressional candidate with over 40,000 followers.
The content of the article linked in the tweet is as follows:
Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.
Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya TV that Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday, had been told that acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil.”
There has been no official declaration of war from either country, however, Saudi Arabia’s perspective on the situation may hold more weight following a fresh bout of political instability in both the Saudi Arabian and Lebanese governments this week.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation to his party and his country’s surprise on Saturday, while multiple Saudi princes and businessmen men have been removed from their posts or detained over the weekend.
The moves by Saudi Arabia included the removal of National Guard minister Prince Miteb, who was the last independent hold over the three power ministries of defense, interior, and the National Guard, severely consolidating power within the government, according to Reuters. Additionally, a senior provincial prince suspiciously died in a helicopter crash amid the political restructuring, which has been spun by the ruling family to be focused on removing corruption. More from the BBC:
Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province, was returning from an inspection tour when his aircraft came down near Abha late on Sunday, the interior ministry said.
It did not give a cause for the crash.
The incident came hours after a major purge of the kingdom’s political and business leadership.
An anti-corruption body led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, ordered the detentions of dozens of people, including 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of ex-ministers. Analysts see the unprecedented move as an attempt to cement the power of the heir to the throne.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s resignation announcement was made while he was out of the country during a visit to Saudi Arabia, with al-Hariri citing fears of an assassination attempt against him, as well as regional instability caused by Iran and Hezbollah, as his reasoning. Lebanese President Michel Aoun will not decide on accepting al-Hariri’s resignation until he returns to Lebanon, according to Reuters.
Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Hezbollah have been in competition for influence within the Lebanese government. The prime minister’s resignation is a threat to the region’s recent stability, in part due to Saudi-backed al-Hariri holding the Lebanese government with Hezbollah-backed President Aoun. Here’s more from CNN:
Hariri’s resignation spells the collapse of a 30-member government of national unity that saw Saudi-backed Hariri fill the post of prime minister, and Hezbollah-backed Michel Aoun occupy the presidency. That government, analysts say, was one of the byproducts of the Obama administration’s landmark Iran nuclear deal.
“With this arrangement, we saw some sort of appeasement where we saw mutual steps from the US and Iran in improving relations and lowering tensions in various areas,” said Riad Kahwaji, director of Institute for Near East and Gulf Military.
The period marked a brief time of stability, in which Lebanon seemed to have steered clear of regional fault-lines.
It’s unclear whether the recent dramatic changes in government will further escalate tensions or lead to a real declaration of war, but the sudden instability in the region has created an extremely dangerous situation. This post may be updated with any developing information.