Lebanon must “deal with” Iran, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri told Davos attendees during a panel hosted by CNBC at the World Economic Forum.
“Iran is a country that we need to deal with. Each nation must understand how it wants to deal with Iran,” Hariri told the audience.
Hariri, a Sunni and dual Lebanese-Saudi national, took office in 2016 in a power-sharing agreement with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian favored by Hezbollah, following two years during which Lebanon essentially had no government.
Shia militant and political group Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the most powerful wing of the Lebanese government. Funded and armed by Iran, it is also the vehicle through which the Islamic Republic extends its influence in Lebanon.
I as a prime minister I would like the best relationship with Iran, but I would like it to be state to state,” Hariri continued. “Not for somebody to invest in Lebanon without telling me on this issue, like Hezbollah or others.”
“Iran presents a challenge in the region maybe, but dialogue also is a part of resolving this issue.”
The Saudi Arabian government, a supporter of Hariri and a major source of investment for the small country, is archly opposed to Iranian influence in Lebanon and the Middle East.
This escalating conflict of regional interests took center stage in November of 2017 when Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh, a move many believe was forced by the Saudi Kingdom. The alleged Saudi measures were viewed as a response to a political compromise in which Hariri took up leadership in exchange for allowing Hezbollah military autonomy.
On November 21, Hariri returned to Lebanon and rescinded his resignation, returning to a country far more united in support for their prime minister than ever before.