Lebanon and Saudi Arabia: help yes, criticism no?

Status: 11.11.2021 6:51 a.m.

Lebanon’s economic situation is precarious. Help from Saudi Arabia is more than welcome. But are Lebanese politicians allowed to criticize the kingdom at the same time? The question sparked a government crisis in Beirut.

By Udo Schmidt, ARD-Studio Cairo

Young men with scooters and green Saudi flags protest excitedly and loudly in front of the Saudi embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut. They demonstrate against their government and for the Saudis. Youssef Al-Masry gesticulates wildly in front of a reporter from the AP news agency and says the demonstrators are against governments, attacking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Nations. “We are at the side of the countries that help us and support us.” And the Lebanese owed Saudi Arabia thanks.

But how far does this thank you go? And how much criticism is still possible? Saudi Arabia has long kept the Lebanese economy alive and at least saved it from complete bankruptcy. But Saudi Arabia is also a key player in the extremely cruel Yemen war, which has been going on for seven years. There, the Saudis, alongside the weak Yemeni government, are fighting the pro-Iranian Shiite Houthi militias, which, however, continue to advance in the country.

The role of Saudi Arabia in the civil war is now heavily criticized by the Lebanese Minister for Information, George Kordahi. The war is absurd, an aggression by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, says the minister and well-known TV presenter in a television film that was just released in August – before Kordahi even became a minister. At the time he was still speaking as a private person.

Sunni against Christians

The angry young men on the streets of Beirut are of little interest, and neither is the Prime Minister. Nadjib Mikati, a Sunni with a Saudi family background, called on his Christian information minister to resign – “in the interests of our country. It cannot be in his interest to damage the government and ultimately dissolve it.”

But Kordahi refuses. Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador and the Shiite Hezbollah supports Kordahi. Lebanon, the almost failed state, has another problem – besides the hyper-inflation of around 100 percent, the near-insolvency, which leads to hours of power outages, food shortages and salaries that have not been paid for months.

A whole chain of problems

According to the World Bank, Lebanon is struggling with the worst economic crisis in decades. Prime Minister Mikati sums up Lebanon’s problems at the World Climate Conference in Glasgow: “Lebanon is facing many challenges, we are experiencing a social, economic crisis, a crisis in the financial and banking center, and the Covid 19 pandemic, the explosion in the The port of Beirut last year and the Syrian refugees we are accommodating. The climate crisis poses further huge tasks for us. “

After this list all that remains is almost nothing but hopelessness. In Glasgow, the Lebanese prime minister presents a vague plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050. At the moment, however, there is hardly any plan for preserving the nation for the next twelve months.

The crash of Lebanon

Udo Schmidt, ARD Cairo, 11/10/2021 3:35 p.m.


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