If Lebanon was already very close to being a failed state, the crisis unleashed this weekend with the Gulf monarchies has really put it on the verge of total collapse. The diplomatic tension and the suspension of economic exchanges are a devastating blow to a country already as fragile and weakened as Lebanon.
Let us advance that the background of this very serious crisis is none other than the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which may now turn Lebanon into an even hotter stage in the struggle for the primacy of the Muslim world.
The pretext used by Riyadh to expel the Lebanese ambassador, Fawzi Kabbara, was the "harmful" comments made by the Lebanese minister, George Kordahi, regarding the Saudi military intervention in Yemen. These comments were made by Kordahi on 5 August last, when he was not yet a minister, to the Qatari television channel Al Jazeera, but the latter did not broadcast the interview until the last week of October, triggering a cascading diplomatic crisis. Subsequently, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates expressed their solidarity with Riyadh and also expelled Lebanese diplomats and/or recalled their respective ambassadors to Beirut for consultations.
Recorded in August, George Kordahi's statements accused the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen of indiscriminately bombing civilians, allegedly taking advantage of events such as weddings or funerals. It so happens that Kordahi is considered to be the confidant of the Lebanese president, the Maronite Christian Michel Aoun. The now Minister of Information clearly sided with the Huthi rebels, who are supported militarily and financially by Iran, against the government in Sana'a, which is backed by Arabia and its Gulf allies.
Faced with the seriousness of the crisis, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati hastened to denounce that "Kordahi's statements did not represent the Beirut government at all", while urging his minister to "take the appropriate decision to re-establish relations with Saudi Arabia" [and the other Gulf monarchies]. In short, to submit his resignation. But, lo and behold, Hezbollah, Iran's de facto armed wing in Lebanon, and a terrorist organization for the United States and Israel, vehemently opposes Kordahi's taking this step. Riyadh and its allies have been denouncing precisely the power of Hezbollah, which has become a decisive piece in the increasingly complicated Lebanese political puzzle.
Economic and financial strangulation
Qatar and Oman are the only two monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula that have not followed in the footsteps of their counterparts, while the Arab League has appealed to "prevent the collapse of the Lebanese economy". Indeed, Riyadh's punishment by banning imports of Lebanese products amounts to at least 200 million dollars, an indispensable sum for the dwindling coffers of the former "Switzerland of the Middle East", together with the remittances of its own emigrants, many of whom are settled in the very countries that are now putting it on the ropes.
Against this background, it is clear that the investments the World Bank was counting on for the reconstruction of a country and a capital devastated by the consequences of both the war in Syria and the gigantic explosion in the Beirut port, which destroyed an area of ten kilometers around, will not reach Beirut either.
As if that were not enough, Saudi Arabia also accuses the Lebanese government of standing idly by in the face of the plague of drugs that has invaded the kingdom from that country. A reality that, in effect, Lebanon has no means to combat, given the obvious lack of resources in an exhausted economy and now with no signs of recovery.
It is therefore the perfect scenario for Tehran and Riyadh to settle their differences with equal or even greater intensity than they already do in Yemen. With a good chance, of course, that Lebanon will end up disappearing from the map.