I do not believe that Saudi Arabia decided to withdraw its support of the army, security forces and other Lebanese institutions just because it was angry as some parts of the Lebanese media have suggested. The involvement of some newspapers and television stations in promoting Iranian discourse that is hostile to Saudi Arabia and incites against it and other moderate Arab states is not a pressing issue. In my opinion, the reason is bigger and more dangerous.
When Saudi Arabia decided to allocate the huge amount of $3 billion to the army and one million dollars to the security forces to develop its capabilities and training, it did not stipulate that Lebanon should get involved in foreign wars or join regional alliances. Rather, Saudi Arabia’s aim was to fill the vacuum that came about after the withdrawal of Syrian forces at the Security Council’s decision following the Assad regime’s involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, fight extremist organisations and strengthen central power by supporting Lebanese state establishments in the face of hostile militias.
When Saudi Arabia extended its support to strengthen the state, Hezbollah who was not satisfied with its large portion of power stretched out its hands to seize more of it. It recruited Lebanese military institutions to serve its purposes in the war in Syria as well as exploit these institutions inside Lebanon. It also worked to use the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support Iranian stances in international forums and dared to exploit the banking system which was known to be the best in the region for illegal trading activities around the world involving drugs and weapons.
The last two successive governments and the presidency of the republic were not able to curb Hezbollah. What is more dangerous is that the army itself did not succeed in disassociating Hezbollah’s forces from its own and Hezbollah recruited the Lebanese army in the Iranian war in Syria. The army was dragged into deploying its forces to regions like Arsal where Hezbollah used them to pursue what it called terrorists from the Syrian opposition and forced them to block routes used by Syrians and the Lebanese to pass through and for funding. It also distanced the army from the northern areas which are used by Hezbollah fighters on their way to and from Syria. It did this on the borders and routes leading to Syria but inside Lebanon, Hezbollah warned the army against entering the southern suburbs which are considered an area outside of the Lebanese state.
It is also rumoured that Hezbollah is building a military airfield in the town of Iaat to carry out more of its shady operations and that it controls security at Beirut airport, kidnapping and searching whoever it wants. Its militias have kidnapped peaceful members of the Iranian opposition and threatened the media because it criticised the Supreme Guide in Tehran and his representative in the suburbs.
All this bullying and intimidation increased when the US Treasury and the Drug Enforcement Administration issued detailed statements about Hezbollah’s involvement in the drug trade and a number of its agents were arrested over the last few weeks in Lithuania, France, Belgium, Colombia as well as within the United States. The US government said that investigations into Hezbollah’s network began in February 2015 and it turns out that Hezbollah uses Lebanon as a centre to manage its operations against many countries in Europe and the Americas to money launder and to buy weapons. It also said that Lebanon has become one of the most dangerous centres for drug trafficking in the world which has led to the international monitoring of many Lebanese banks and reviewing their records. Hezbollah has deliberately weakened and humiliated the army and the security establishment to the extent that no one dared to confront the thugs of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement when they attacked protestors during demonstrations against the accumulation of rubbish.
It is no longer logical for Saudi Arabia to support Lebanon’s military and civilian institutions, some of which support Hezbollah and Iran. Saudi Arabia hoped to strengthen the state and central power in order to support Lebanon’s political independence inside and outside the country.
Hezbollah has played a deliberate role in destroying and impeding the state. It has forced prime ministers out, prevented individuals from standing for president and suspended parliamentary work to achieve its objective by paralysing the presidential institutions, the government and the army and putting the central bank under international suspicions. Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon into an Iranian colony and its practices are all part of the Velayat-e- Faqih’s project to dominate Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. After all of this, it is no longer logical to strengthen the army, train it and arm it. Even with the abolition of support, Saudi Arabia remains the hope of moderate Lebanese parties in their battle against Iranian militias and its allies so that the country is not an easy prey in the raging regional war.