Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Lebanon is the State… Not the Names

The recent Lebanese elections, which saw Hezbollah losing its allies and the parliamentary majority, and the entry of independents into parliament, is not only a lesson for the party, Iran and the Lebanese, but rather a message for the entire region.

The first lesson is “not to rely on agents,” whether those were prominent figures, families or houses… Saudi Arabia has always been aware of this reality, and for years, it has not been dragged into such an illusion. The phenomenon, which ended with the departure of the martyr Rafik Hariri, cannot be repeated. That man was an exception.

In my conviction, which I have reiterated before some Lebanese politicians, a state should deal with a state and institutions. In the Arab case, it is in everyone’s interest to deal with everyone, but in a manner consistent with the reality of the region.

Our region needs wise people from all sects and classes. It falls in the interest of a state to deal with wise Lebanese figures, whether Sunnis, Shiites or Christians. The same is true for the rest of Arab conflict areas, based on the components of each country.

We have to deal with institutions and rational people, not with agents. This is not rejection, inaction, or lack of loyalty, but falls instead within general and comprehensive interest, especially since the opponents - such as Iran and Hezbollah, or the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, and others - have understood the rules of the game and thus easily sabotage it.

For example, in Lebanon, Hezbollah assassinated Rafik Hariri, to bring down an entire project. In Iraq, moderate figures, who tried to raise their voice, have been immediately liquidated. It’s simple: when a project revolves around one person, all you have to do is to assassinate that person to eliminate the project.

Therefore, a more comprehensive and transparent strategy is required. It is to deal with states and institutions, and to mobilize the wise, from each sect, and thus block the road to corruption and political monopoly.

These words do not target Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who committed grave political mistakes against Lebanon and himself, but rather to avoid a country being “crammed” into an individual. In short, this approach summarizes Saudi rationality and realism.

I have witnessed two decades of Saudi relations with Lebanon, and I repeatedly heard from Saudi leaders and senior officials - may God have mercy on the dead among them and God save the living - that Saudi Arabia stands on the same distance with all.

One day, a Lebanese political figure asked me to convey a message to a Saudi official, wishing to meet with him. The senior Saudi official replied: “He is welcome; but tell him that I have no preference to anyone. The most important for us is the Lebanese state, and we are on the same distance from everyone.”

Accordingly, before the recent elections and since 2015, Riyadh has been aware of the importance of “not relying on agents”, but on transparency and clarity. In fact, Saudi Arabia has launched the biggest war against corruption, and stands on one distance from all to serve the concept of the state, and not a particular sect, figure, or family.

This requires an integrated strategy to protect and empower wise figures across Arab countries and to encourage rational voices, because the supreme goal remains the region’s stability.