Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (Photo credit: Reuters, Mohamed Azakir)
On 21 March, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati demanded an end to “all the Lebanon-based political, military, security and media activities that harm the sovereignty, security and stability of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”
Mikati said his government is implementing several measures to mend ties with Riyadh and the other Gulf nations. These measures, he said, would include impeding the transfer of drugs from Lebanon into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
The PM said he was also committed to ending “the use of the Lebanese banking system to fund activities that might harm the security of Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries.”
Relations between Beirut, Riyadh, and its Gulf allies have been frosty in recent years. They reached a tipping point in late October 2021 when Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed all diplomatic ties with Beirut over comments made by Lebanon’s then-minister of information George Kordahi about the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.
In addition to cutting diplomatic relations, the four countries banned the importation of all Lebanese goods and barred their citizens from traveling to Lebanon.
Some stakeholders have described the reaction of the Gulf nations as too harsh, especially as Kordahi’s remarks were made before he became a minister. On 3 December, Kordahi stepped down from his position in an effort to end the diplomatic row.
It is widely believed the reaction of Saudi Arabia and its allies was influenced by anger at what they perceive to be the failure of the Lebanese government to rein in the influence of the Hezbollah resistance movement in Lebanese society.
Riyadh claims that Hezbollah has been providing military support to the Yemeni Armed Forces. Both Hezbollah and the Yemeni army have strongly denied these allegations.
Saudi Arabia has a well-documented history of interfering in Lebanon’s affairs. In 2017, the kingdom kidnapped and tortured Saad al-Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon at the time, and then released him three weeks later.