Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri is just full of surprises.
His sudden resignation while in Saudi Arabia shocked the political establishment in Lebanon, leaving even his closest aides dumbfounded at the decision. Fast-forward two weeks and the prime minister has decided not to resign following a Paris visit and a closed-door conversation with President Michel Aoun, a political ally of the Hezbollah-Iran axis that was supposedly trying to assassinate Hariri in the first place.
The whole saga comes off as bewildering, but it’s markedly less so if you consider who’s pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Any analysis of yesterday’s developments starts with the question: What changed? Why did Saad Hariri decide to return to Lebanon and stay on as prime minister after meeting with French President Macron and President Aoun? If we were to take his original resignation at face value, then issues surrounding the prime minister’s personal safety must have been resolved to make it safe for him to return. Of course, neither Macron nor Aoun are in a position to provide credible guarantees, so Hariri’s homecoming either means he’s a nationalist with a deathwish or that the original Hezbollah assassination threat was a bit of geopolitical theatre for foreign and domestic audiences.
The latter explanation is the safer bet.