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Why Saad Hariri Had That Strange Sojourn in Saudi Arabia

Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, was summoned to the Saudi royal offices — unseemly early, by the kingdom’s standards . Mr. Hariri, long an ally of the Saudis was going camping in the desert with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

He was handed a prewritten resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television. The real reason he had been beckoned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, a day earlier: to resign under pressure and publicly blame Iran, as if he were an employee and not a sovereign leader.

He has jailed hundreds of fellow princes and businessmen in what he casts as an anticorruption drive. Abroad, he has waged war in Yemen and confronted Qatar.

It was a surreal counterpoint to a series of events unfolding that day and into the night that set the entire Middle East on edge: a missile fired at Riyadh, the hundreds of Saudi princes and businessmen arrested, and Lebanon left stunned and confused. Prince Mohammed had already launched a war in neighboring Yemen against Iran-aligned rebels, and gotten bogged down. He had blockaded Qatar, only to push the gulf country closer to Iran.


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