Arab countries ordered to expel ambassadors
Lebanon’s President Evolves
Lebanon faced harsh retaliation from Saudi Arabia after a minister’s comments criticized Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Gulf Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, foreshadowed heavy rain, either cutting off trade with Lebanon or expelling the Lebanese ambassador to their country.
On the 29th (local time), the Saudi government notified the Lebanese ambassador to Lebanon to leave within 48 hours and banned all imports of Lebanese goods, state-run SPA news agency reported.
Following Saudi Arabia, Gulf Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain also ordered the expulsion of the Lebanese ambassador to their country the next day or summoned their diplomatic corps in Lebanon. Some have recommended a ban on travel to Lebanon.
The conflict was sparked by a Lebanese minister criticizing Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Lebanon’s intelligence minister, George Kordahi, said in an interview on the 25th that “Yemen’s Houthis rebels are fighting against external aggression.
In Yemen in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the leaders of Sunni and Shia Islam, respectively, are engaged in a proxy war. Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnis, carried out air strikes in Yemen in 2015, fearing that the influence of the ‘Shia belt’ would expand through Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to Yemen, which borders the country.
As Iran supported the Houthi rebels, the civil war continued for more than six years, causing more than 4 million Yemenis to lose their homes and disperse.
Minister Kordahi, who made the ‘remark in question’ this time, is a Christian person with support from Lebanon’s Shiite party Hezbollah.
As the controversy grew, Lebanon’s President Michel Aun said on the 30th, “I want to maintain good relations with neighboring countries including Saudi Arabia.” Minister Kordahi explained, “This TV interview was recorded one month before I was appointed as minister,” but it is known that he refused to resign.
This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has been at odds with a Lebanese cabinet member. In May, Lebanon’s foreign minister, Sharbel Wahbi, resigned after making remarks in a TV debate suggesting that the Islamic State (IS)’s rise as an international terrorist organization was supported by the Gulf states.
If Saudi Arabia cuts off trade, Lebanon’s economic crisis could aggravate. Lebanon depends on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab countries for 55.4% of its agricultural exports. Saudi media Arab News reported that the sanctions would cost Lebanon a loss of $250,000 a day.