Military Wiki
2017 Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute
Part of Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
Date4 November 2017 – ongoing
(4 years, 9 months, 1 week and 5 days)
Saudi Arabia


  • Resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
  • Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates requested their citizens to leave Lebanon
Parties involved in dispute
 Lebanon  Saudi Arabia

The 2017 Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute began when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia on 4 November 2017. Shortly thereafter, the foreign relations between both countries and allied regional neighbors have become increasingly strained. On 6 November 2017, Saudi Arabia claimed Lebanon declared war between the two states, despite leaders of Lebanon stating otherwise. On 9 November 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates requested their citizens to leave Lebanon. The conflict is thought to be part of the larger Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict. Iran, Hezbollah, some Lebanese officials and analysts believe that Hariri's abrupt resignation was made under coercion by Saudis and have claimed that the Saudis have kept him hostage. Iran, Hezbollah and some analysts also believe that this was to create pretext for war against Hezbollah.


In 1989, Saudi Arabia along with the United States helped mediate the end of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War through the Taif Agreement.[1] The agreement left Hezbollah as Lebanon's only armed sectarian militia, due to its struggle against Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon.[2] Following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, calls grew for the disarmament of Hezbollah; however, the party resisted any such attempt.[2] Following the assassination of Rafik Hariri — believed to have involved Hezbollah, after Hariri's call for Hezbollah's disarmament[2] — Saudi Arabia called for the immediate withdrawal of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.[3] Saudi Arabia has opposed Hezbollah's influence in Lebanon, and its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, as they are seen to be strongly aligned with Iran.[2]

Resignation of Hariri

Hariri in 2017

On 4 November 2017, in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri tendered his resignation from office, citing Iran's and Hezbollah's political over-extension in the Middle East region and fears of assassination.[4][5] Hariri's resignation led to a drop in Lebanese bonds and warnings of a cut to its credit rating.[2] Iran vehemently rejected Saad Hariri's remarks and called his resignation part of a plot by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to heighten Middle Eastern tensions.[6] The Lebanese Army responded with a statement that intelligence in its possession in addition to ongoing arrests and investigations had not revealed “the presence of any plan for assassinations in the country.”[7]

Lebanese president, Michel Aoun is reported as having told foreign ambassadors that Hariri has been kidnapped by Saudi Arabia.[8] Pointing to his twelve-day stay in Saudi Arabia after his resignation, Aoun said that he considers Hariri to be detained by Saudi Arabia.[9]

According to the Independent, Hariri could've not resigned on his own as he had already scheduled visits with International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the following Monday. When Hariri's airplane landed in Riyadh airport, he saw himself surrounded with police forces who confiscated his cellphone and those of his bodyguards. This is believed to part of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman's extreme measures to curb Iran's influence in the region.[10]

Several Iran-leaning and Shia-aligned Lebanese groups, including Hezbollah, accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage; Hariri's associates and Saudi officials have denied this. Several Lebanese commentators poked fun at the released pictures of Hariri in Saudi Arabia for their apparent similarity to those taken of hostages. The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, declared "the resignation of Hariri illegal and invalid." In November, it was announced that Hariri was on his way from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates. Hariri's own party's media outlet reported that he would then move on to Bahrain and later back to Beirut, but both of these trips were subsequently cancelled and he was sent back to Riyadh.[11][12][13]

War declaration accusations

Parties involved with the conflict have stated that each side has effectively declared war on one another.

On 4 November 2017, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen possibly targeting the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.[14] Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said the missile was smuggled to Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthis through Hezbollah operatives. "We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring a war because of Hezbollah militias," Thamer al-Sabhan, minister of state for Persian Gulf affairs told the Saudi-controlled Al Arabiya network. “Lebanon is kidnapped by the militias of Hezbollah and behind it is Iran.”[15]

On 9 November 2017, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Hariri's resignation as invalid, said that Saudi Arabia has "has declared war on Lebanon and Hezbollah."[16]


Some analysts have speculated Hariri's resignation could end Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system through the Taif Agreement.[17] The timing of Hariri's resignation aligned with the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge, leading some to speculate that it is part of Mohammad bin Salman's plan to consolidate power.[18][19][20] It was also seen as a power play by Saudi Arabia to increase its influence in Lebanon and counterbalance Iranian gains in Iraq and Syria.[21][22] Robert Fisk argued that Hariri's resignation was made under Saudi's coercion with the aim of forcing Iran-affiliated group, Hezbollah out of the Lebanese parliament and instigate civil war in the country.[10]

E. Michael Jones, a catholic professor and political commentator for Iranian state-run Press TV claimed that Hariri has been kidnapped by Saudi Arabia on Israeli order to create a pretext for war against Hezbollah and Iran.[23] However, a former Mossad head of research stated that “It is not in the interests of Israel or Hezbollah to engage in a conflict. Right now, Israel has nothing tangible to gain from a war with Hezbollah. And for Iran, Hezbollah will only become useful as a strategic tool if something major happens between Iran and Israel.”[24]

A US history professor claims that President Aoun feared loss of power and with parliamentary elections set for May of 2018, to be conducted under new, proportional voting rules, it was not impossible that a Sunni coalition with right-wing, anti-Aoun Christians could do well and sideline Hezbollah and its allies.[25]

International reactions

On 9 November 2017, Saudi Arabia, and subsequently the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, urge all citizens currently in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. Recently, Saudi Arabia declared that a missile attack on its airport from Yemen was "an act of war" by Lebanon.[26][27]

On 10 November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron made an unscheduled visit to Saudi Arabia amidst an escalating crisis. France is a close partner of Lebanon.[28] United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned against "any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country."[29] American and European officials privately pressed Saudi Arabia to back down from its confrontational stance, which, according to The Economist, was heeded.[30] Spokespeople for the French and German foreign ministries however said they did not have reason to believe that Hariri was being kept against his will.[31][32]

Israeli Intelligence Minister Katz called the resignation a “turning point” for the Middle East. “Now is the time to press and isolate Hezbollah, until it will be weakened and eventually disarmed”.[33]

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi told the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh that he supports the reasons for Hariris resignation.[34]

On 16 November 2017, French President invited Saad Hariri and his family to France, and he left Saudi Arabia for France within 48 hours, before flying home to Beirut to officially submit his resignation as Lebanese prime minister. The French insist that the offer was not one of exile.[35]

See also

  • Foreign relations of Lebanon
  • Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia
  • Hezbollah foreign relations
  • 2017 Saudi Arabian purge
  • 2017 United States–Saudi Arabia arms deal


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "The Saudi hand in Saad Hariri's resignation as Lebanese prime minister". The Economist. 9 November 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2017. 
  3. "Saudi ruler demands rapid Syrian withdrawal". The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon. 4 March 2005. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  4. CNN, Chandrika Narayan,. "Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns". CNN. Retrieved 4 November 2017. 
  5. "Lebanon's prime minister just resigned 'over plot to target his life'". The Independent. 4 November 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017. 
  6. "PressTV-Hariri resignation, US-Saudi-Zionist plot: Iran". Retrieved 5 November 2017. 
  7. "PressTV-Lebanon army: No assassination plots uncovered". Retrieved 5 November 2017. 
  8. "Lebanese president presses Saudi to say why Hariri has not returned". Reuters. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017. 
  9. "Lebanon just accused Saudi Arabia of holding their prime minister hostage". The Independent. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Saad Hariri’s resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon is not all it seems". The Independent. 9 November 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017. 
  11. Barnard, Anne (7 November 2017). "Where’s Saad Hariri? Lebanon Wants to Know". Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  12. Lebanon PM under house arrest in Saudi Arabia: pro-Hezbollah paper 7 November, Reuter
  13. "Saad Hariri’s resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon is not all it seems". 9 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  14. Almosawa, Shuaib; Barnard, Anne (4 November 2017). "Saudis Intercept Missile Fired From Yemen That Came Close to Riyadh". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  15. "Saudi Arabia says Lebanon has declared war on it". Reuters. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  16.,+The Washington Times. "Saudi Arabia ‘has declared war' on Lebanon, says Hezbollah leader". The Washington Times. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  17. Ahmado, Nisan. "Lebanon 'Declaring War' on Saudi Arabia, Saudi Minister Says". VOA. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  18. "Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Cracks the Whip". Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  19. "Saudi Arabia 'at a crossroads': What the arrests of several princes mean for the kingdom's future". CBC News. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  20. "Saudi crown prince's purge extends into Lebanon". Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  21. Perry, Tom; Bassam, Laila (7 November 2017). "Saudi reopens Lebanon front in struggle with Iran". Retrieved 8 November 2017. 
  22. Alsaafin, Linah; Najjar, Farah (8 November 2017). "Is Lebanon caught in a Saudi-Iran regional power play?". Retrieved 8 November 2017. 
  23. "PressTV-Saudi Arabia kidnapped Hariri on Israeli order: Analyst". Retrieved 15 November 2017. 
  26. "Saudi, UAE, Kuwait urge citizens to leave Lebanon". Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  27. "Saudi Arabia Tells Its Citizens To Leave Lebanon, And It's Not Completely Clear Why". Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  28. "French president makes surprise Saudi visit". BBC News. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  29. "UPDATE 1-Tillerson warns region against using Lebanon as proxy for conflict". Reuters. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  30. "Iran and Saudi Arabia take their rivalry to Lebanon". The Economist. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017. 
  31. CNBC (10 November 2017). "Former Lebanese leader not under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, French foreign minister says". Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  32. "No evidence Saudi Arabia detaining Hariri: Germany". 10 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  33. News, Jonathan Ferziger Bloomberg. "Despite diplomatic silence, Israel and Saudi Arabia united by common foe". Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  34. "Lebanese patriarch, in Saudi, says supports reasons Hariri quit". 14 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  35. "Lebanon-Saudi Crisis seem to be cooling down". 16 November 2017. 

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