Summary of What Hariri's Resignation Means for Lebanon

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri plunged Lebanon into political uncertainty when he unexpectedly announced his resignation. The fact that he made this announcement in Riyad and read from a script that many suspected was drafted by the Saudis has increased suspicions that Lebanon is being dragged into a larger regional confrontation between the Saudi-led Sunnis and Iran-backed Shiites. Middle East and International security expert Bilal Y. Saab analyzes the regional context and implications of Hariri’s resignation in this Foreign Affairs Snapshot.  

In this summary, you will learn

  • What prompted Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation and
  • Why the Saudi intervention in Lebanon is unlikely to weaken Iranian regional influence.

About the Author

Bilal Y. Saab is senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute.



Saad Hariri caught many by surprise when he announced his resignation as the prime minister of Lebanon on November 4, 2017. Hariri made the announcement in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, triggering speculations about Saudi Arabia’s possible role in forcing its long-time political protégé out of office. While in office, Hariri found himself in the difficult position of heading a government dominated by Hezbollah – the group purportedly responsible for his father’s death. Saudi Arabia’s new leadership, under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, has vowed to take a harder line toward Iran. The country may, therefore, have sought Hariri’s ouster as part of a political plan to either render the Iran-backed Hezbollah more vulnerable in an armed conflict with Israel or, simply, to marginalize the group politically within Lebanon. If Hariri runs as the opposition leader in the upcoming parliamentary elections, it’s possible his party, with the support of the Saudis, could win a majority in the parliament.

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