How Iran-Saudi rapprochement is impacting Lebanon

Al Monitor| Josephine Deeb: Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Jan. 16 that Iran does not want to topple the Saudi royal family because leaving an opening for the Islamic State to rise would not be any better.

Shamkhani’s words did not go unnoticed in the regional and Lebanese political scenes.

The regional political disputes between Saudi Arabia and Iran have translated into political conflicts in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria, affecting their allies in Lebanon. Serious confrontations broke out over the years between Lebanese political parties, specifically Iran-allied Hezbollah and the Saudi-backed Future Movement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was crystal clear at the World Economic Congress in Davos on Jan. 18 when he said that Iran and Saudi Arabia must cooperate to end the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, just like they did in Lebanon when they worked to lift the obstacles for Lebanese presidential elections.

Zarif’s words about the Saudi-Iranian understanding that allowed for the election of a president in Lebanon sparked a variety of reactions domestically. For his part, Christian Lebanese Forces Party leader Samir Geagea tweeted Jan. 19 that rumors that regional countries were behind the agreement to end the presidential stalemate are untrue.

Sadeq Nabulsi, a cleric and Lebanese University lecturer who often comments on Hezbollah, told Al-Monitor, “Iran wants to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia and reach an understanding to solve political and sectarian disputes.”

He added, “Iran also believes that rapprochement with the kingdom would ensure a solid base for positive ties with other Muslim countries, especially with the looming security threats [to Iran] in case of a vacuum in the kingdom or chaos instead of the current Al Saud family rule,” in reference to warnings by Iranian officials about the potential advent of IS in the kingdom.

Read More Here