Alwaght- The Lebanese parliamentary elections are set to be held on May 15 while the Saudis are angry that the electoral lists do not contain their favorable figures. In the run-up to the elections, Riyadh has decided that it should intensify its role in Lebanon and that is why it sent back its recalled ambassador to Beirut. In recent days, the Saudi ambassador met with candidates backed by Riyadh and visited Beirut's Sunni-majority areas in order to change the election course in Saudi favor.
The Saudi leaders are seriously alarmed to see some prominent Sunni figures like Saad Hariri, Tamam Salam, and Najib Mikati have decided not to run in the elections. In the past few days, Saudi media outlets and officials lashed out at the Sunni camp in Lebanon and called the decision by its leading figures a defeat to it. They think that Sunni sitting out of the election would mean the victory of Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian political forces.
The Saudis are angered by suspension of political role of former PM Hariri, who was once a pawn in Riyadh hands and a protector of the Saudi interests in Lebanon. Recalling Riyadh's backing to Hariri, the Saudi newspaper Okaz described his move as a "betrayal" of the Lebanese and Saudis and called on him to use his influence among the people to support the Sunni list to cut possibility of Hezbollah winning in the forthcoming election.
Saudi Arabia believes that Hariri leaving the political arena has torn apart the Sunni ranks and made their defeat unavoidable. By influencing the Lebanese elections, the Saudis are trying to prevent the results of the 2018 parliamentary elections, which led to Hezbollah's victory, from being repeated, and so they have relied on Hariri to use his influence to increase the Sunni candidate's chances of victory. Since Hariri is likely to boycott the elections to show his influence in Lebanon, the Saudis are trying to dissuade him from sitting out and persuade him to encourage his supporters to take part in the elections. The Saudis are setting hope on the Sunnis while they have lost popularity among them following the spat that came after Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi's remarks about the Yemeni war.
Apparently, the Saudis are no longer confident that Hariri can pursue their interests in Lebanon. Still, they have concluded that the only figure that can presently give a weight to the Sunni bloc in the parliament is himself and his Future Movement that can encourage the people to vote and so turn the tide of the election that is now playing into Hezbollah hands. Riyadh is trying to pressure its pawns to participate in the elections, as Hezbollah's strong victory in the elections poses a serious threat to Saudi Arabia's political sway in Lebanon. Hezbollah officials have said in the future Lebanon will treat the enemies differently.
The Saudis could not easily follow their goals in Lebanon even when Hariri was in power. Therefore, if all of their proxies are absent from the political scene, they lose the power to make crisis for their own interests in Lebanon. Seeing the Sunni election list free of influential figures, Riyadh resorted to Hariri to tip the scales in favor of aligned Sunnis.
The kingdom is seeking presence of its loyalists in the election while in the past it betrayed them more than once. It held Hariri hostage for 40 days in November 2017 when it failed to achieve its goals in Lebanon, thus turning him into a burned piece.
Also, when in 2019 the Saudis could help their ally Hariri get the country out of the economic crisis, they turned their back to him and sided with the US and the Israeli regime in a pressure campaign aimed at bringing Hezbollah at its knees, aggravating the economic predicament and political instability. There are fears that if the pro-Saudi figures regain the power, Riyadh would betray them again. Saudi Arabia ties any aids to Lebanon to Hezbollah being cut off from the political process. Having in mind that the resistant movement is seeing its political and economic power growing, the Saudis would not take any steps in support of Beirut. That is why the Sunni leaders are almost sure that Hezbollah's victory is certain, and on the other hand, they cannot count on Saudi aids and have already accepted their defeat. This goes against policy of Saudi Arabia that wants to isolate Hezbollah, disarm it, and establish an obedient government in Lebanon.
The Saudis reap what they sowed in Lebanon elections. They are, actually, betting on Hariri while he is no longer a yes-man to them like in the past. In this election, analysts agree, the 2018 experience would repeat itself and with Hezbollah victory and absence of the Saudi henchmen, Saudi Arabia hands would be cut off from the Lebanese politics.