As Lebanon tightens its cozy relationship with Iran, the country has just added major regional diplomacy problems to its spiraling national economic and political crises.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia expelled the Lebanese Ambassador, ordering him to leave the kingdom within 48 hours in response to criticism of its actions by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi in an interview that was aired Monday, but recorded this past August prior to his appointment in September.
All Lebanese imports were banned as well, delivering another major blow to the financially strapped Lebanese. The Saudi ambassador to Beirut was also recalled “for consultations,” according to the SPA Saudi state news agency.
“The control of the terrorist Hezbollah on the decision-making of the Lebanese state made Lebanon an arena for implementing projects for countries that don’t wish Lebanon and its people well,” the Saudi government added in the statement posted by SPA.
Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia on Saturday, expelling the Lebanese charge d’affairs in an order to leave within 48 hours, and recalling its ambassador from Beirut as well.
Kuwait likewise ordered Lebanon’s charge d’affaires to leave the country within 48 hours and recalled its ambassador from Beirut, according to a statement from the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry carried by official state-run news agency KUNA.
“Kuwait recalls Amb. in Beirut, asks Lebanese envoy to leave country in 48 hours,” the statement said, due to the failure of the Lebanese government to “address the unacceptable and reprehensible statements against the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the rest” of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members states, which include Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, in addition to Saudi Arabia.
The United Arab Emirates announced a few hours later that it, too, was recalling its diplomats from Lebanon. UAE citizens were also banned from traveling to the country.
“The UAE announced the withdrawal of its diplomats from Lebanon in solidarity with the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the UAE Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency, adding it had “also decided to prevent its citizens from traveling to Lebanon.”
Kordahi, a former television talk show host close to a Christian movement allied with Hezbollah, had condemned about Saudi Arabia’s military action against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in the interview aired online last Monday by a broadcaster affiliated with Qatar’s Aljazeera news network. He commented that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels were “defending themselves…against an external aggression,” and said that “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the coalition. He called the war “futile” and said it was ‘time for it to end.”
Several high-level Lebanese government officials met Saturday together with Richard Michaels, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Beirut, to deal with the crisis, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib said.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun tried to pour oil on the troubled waters in a statement Saturday, saying his country wants ‘the best relations” with Saudi Arabia and its neighbors.
Ostracization of Lebanon by its sister Arab nations is certain to further exacerbate the country’s deepening struggles.