Lire absolument: Saudi Arabia Gazes at Lebanon with Vengeance
On 21 June 2015, angry families in Lebanon took to the streets protesting the brutal treatment of Islamist prisoners at Roumia prison. A leaked video showed one security officer flogging a naked, handcuffed, bearded man with a water hose while shouting profanities: “Do you want houriat? It’s your mother who will be the hourieh.” The featured torturers turned out to be members of the Information Security Branch, which is under the direct command of Minister of Interior and Future Party leader Nouhad al-Mashnuq. Protesters in Tripoli, Beirut, and Iqlim al-Kharrub (in Mount Lebanon) chanted slogans and insults against Hariri, al-Mashnuq, and Minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi, calling them “secular infidels that do not represent ahal al-Sunna.”
In the face of this public resentment, some Future Party MPs in the north (MPs Khalid al-Daher and Mouin Mer’abi) distanced themselves from their party for fear of losing their local constituency, while others blamed the whole thing on Hizballah. Rifi, with his trademark impulsive miscalculations, blamed Hizballah for leaking the video showing humiliation and torture of Lebanese Islamist prisoners (mostly from Tripoli and other parts of the north). But in his attempt to direct Sunni anger against the Shi‘a, Rifi’s sectarian politics backfired. Angry protesters turned apoplectic because of their perception that Rifi assumed that they were too stupid to discern his tactics, and instead some protesters went on television, shouting, “We want to thank Hizballah for exposing the truth about the torture our sons are subjected to in Roumia.” Hizballah denied leaking the video; moreover, the IP address of the original YouTube account where the video was first published turned out to be that of the media office of Ashraf Rifi. Hizballah’s advantage lies in the fact that Saudi Arabia’s proxies in Lebanon are currently caught up in a maelstrom of confusion and a lack of public credibility.
Internally, in light of an ongoing and self-inflicted trash crisis, both March 8 and March 14 politicians continue to de-escalate their political rhetoric. However, Saudi Arabia’s insistence on a confrontation with Hizballah means that it is only a matter of time until the Saudis withdraw their losing card, Sa‘ad Hariri, and deploy another Trojan horse to create the sort of chaos the kingdom seeks. This means other Sunni figures will be given a leading role and Hariri will be out of the Lebanese arena–again. Saudi Arabia’s possible nominees for unconventional roles could include Jabhat al-Nusra or/and IS, alongside thuggish Sunni figures who have splintered from Future and set up their own shop as warlords for hire. This includes those who perpetuated a six-year war between the poorest communities in Tripoli.