“Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not return to Lebanon empty-handed the way he left it three years and four months ago. After having spent his time roaming between the hotels of Europe and castles of Saudi Arabia, he crowned his return to Lebanon with a Saudi grant to the Lebanese army and security forces. Backed by the decision of King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, Hariri is here to spend $1 billion in support of the Lebanese Army in its fight against terrorism. He is also set to “lead the Sunni moderate movement,” as he said at a March 14 meeting yesterday, and as Future Movement officials constantly reiterate. Many questions surround the circumstances of Hariri’s return, while the answers may start in Mosul but not end in Ersal. “Hariri is back and this is final. He may travel abroad to visit someone, but he is back in Lebanon,” a source close to Hariri told Al-Akhbar, while Future Movement officials insist that he returned to lead “Sunni moderation” and [oversee] the spending of the Saudi grant……………”
A tough task entrusted by the Al Saud princes to their man in Beirut. Reset the “Sunni” movement by re-configuring relations with the Wahhabi takfiri terrorist groups that the Hariri alliance had encouraged and aided only a couple of years ago in both Lebanon and Syria. The one billion dollars in Saudi aid is read by some as a reduction of an earlier Saudi commitment which promised $3 billion of arms to be bought specifically from France. (But perhaps that French weapons deal was offered by the Saudis when they were trying to get France to help their side in the Syrian war). Others have added this new billion to that earlier three billion and talked about $4 billion total Saudi military aid. Apparently so far none of it has materialized, as far as I know.
The other task entrusted to Hariri, a task that is the main Saudi obsession, is even tougher, nay hopeless. Recent years have not been kind to the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc, and Mr. Hariri is now tasked with resuming the “fight” against Hezbollah in its own territory. The Saudis have been trying for years to stem the power of Hezbollah in Lebanon through the use of the only weapons at their disposal: oil money and Western sanctions. But facts on the ground, Lebanese political alliances, and population demographic trends have been moving against them. Apparently petro-money is not enough to get a majority of Lebanese to discover the joys of an alliance with Wahhabism.
Even the last elections of 2009, when the infusion of a lot of money managed to get a temporary majority in parliament for the Saudi-allied March 14 Movement (Hariri, Falange, etc), did not turn out as expected. The voters still awarded March 8 (Hezbollah and its Christian allies) a majority of the popular vote (about 54%). Given that political reality, it did not take long for Mr. Hariri to be forced out of power.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum