Saudi Arabia's aid halt to Lebanon is justified

Riyadh has always been supportive of the political dispensations in Beirut, and had played an active role in beefing up the country's fragile economy during the civil war in 1980s.

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Published: Sat 20 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Feb 2016, 7:54 AM

In a major review of its relations with Lebanon, Saudi Arabia has decided to halt its military aid package citing reasons of diplomatic impropriety. The aid was to the tune of $3 billion, and Beirut was planning to use that money to buy French weapons for its army. Another cash dole of $1 billion has also been suspended by Riyadh, which was meant to equip the internal security forces. The UAE has seconded Saudi Arabia's reassessment decision.
Riyadh says the Lebanese national unity government failed to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran last month. The protests were in the wake of execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia. Beirut, to the discomfort of Riyadh, took a bizarre and negative stand, which was offensive in essence. Lebanon's failure to support Saudi Arabia was against the spirit of Pan-Arab consensus, and literally undermined the special relationship that both the countries have had all these years. Moreover, there are genuine concerns as far as the conduct of the Lebanese government is concerned, as it is seen acting as a proxy of Iran. While the Tehran-backed militia, Hezbollah, is part of the cabinet and the same is actively involved in Syria in supporting President Bashar Al Assad, it was more of a conflict of interest in the light of Saudi Arabia's stance over the dispute.
Riyadh has always been supportive of the political dispensations in Beirut, and had played an active role in beefing up the country's fragile economy during the civil war in 1980s. Saudi Arabia believes that a strong, independent and self-reliant Lebanon is in the interest of the region, which is why it had come up with staggering defence allocations to the strife-torn country. While extremist outfits, including Daesh, were knocking on the doors of Lebanon, Riyadh thought it appropriate to buck up Beirut's line of defence so that it could be in a better position to ward off the fallout from Syria. But Lebanon is unresponsive, and even refused to sign Saudi-drafted resolutions condemning the attacks. Lebanon's shift towards Iran and its over-reliance on Hezbollah are likely to act as a destabilising factor, and harm its relations with the Arab fraternity.



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