Fate of Lebanon minister after row with Gulf stirs division

Oct 30, 2021, 6:20 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2021, 11:40 am
Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi speaks to journalists after a cabinet meeting at the ...

Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi speaks to journalists after a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Saudi Arabia on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 ordered the Lebanese ambassador to the kingdom to leave the country within 48 hours and stopped all imports from Lebanon, a response to comments by Kordahi who described the war in Yemen as a Saudi "aggression." (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT (AP) — The diplomatic row between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is aggravating divisions in Lebanon, already reeling from an economic meltdown and social tension.

Some are pushing for the resignation of the Cabinet minister whose comments sparked the crisis, in order to protect economic and political ties with the Gulf. Others are defending him, describing calls for his removal as extortion.

The crisis comes at a tough time for Lebanon, as it grapples with rising poverty and unemployment, the fallout from some of the worst violence in Beirut in years, and calls for major reforms from a divided but entrenched political elite. Many blame the country’s leadership for years of corruption and mismanagement.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church said the crisis with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations threatens to undermine the interests of thousands of Lebanese living in those countries, as well as Lebanese businesses that depend on them.

In his Sunday Sermon, Cardinal Bechara Rai suggested he wants the minister to resign.

“We look forward to the President and the Prime Minister and all those concerned to take a decisive action to remove the explosive fuse threatening the Lebanese-Gulf relations,” the Cardinal said.

Saudi Arabia was angered by comments from Lebanon’s information minister in which he had described the war in Yemen as an aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He called the war “absurd,” adding that Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have the right to defend themselves.

George Kordahi, who hosted a game show for years on a Saudi-owned TV station, has refused to apologize, saying his comments meant no offense to the kingdom. The comments were recorded weeks before Kordahi became minister.

But Riyadh reacted swiftly once the comments spread online, recalling its ambassador to Lebanon and asking the Lebanese envoy to leave. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain followed suit. In a further escalation late on Sunday, the Emirates urged its citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately, according to a tweet posted by the official WAM news agency.

The Saudis also banned all Lebanese imports — a major blow to one of Lebanon’s largest export markets. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese live and work in the Gulf, sending millions of dollars of remittances back home, where the financial crisis has driven over 50% of the population into poverty.

The Lebanese-Saudi Business Council, an association that represents businessmen from both countries warned on Sunday of the crisis’ impact on trade and the fortunes of thousands of Lebanese living in the Gulf.

“We call on all officials to take the necessary measures to dismiss the information minister who caused an unprecedented crisis with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations,” the council said in a statement. Politicians from leading Lebanese parties also called for his removal.

But in a sign the crisis is deepening divisions in Lebanon, allies of the country’s powerful Iran-allied Hezbollah group rallied behind Kordahi, rejecting what they called on Sunday “a frenzied campaign” to remove him. Saudi Arabia sees Hezbollah as an agent of its bitter rival, Iran.

An umbrella group of parties and public figures supporting Hezbollah said the aim of attack on Kordahi is “extorting Lebanon, inciting against the resistance (in reference to Hezbollah) and stirring sedition.”

Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah said Kordahi’s resignation won’t resolve the crisis.

“We won’t accept that our country becomes a hostage to the extortion of a sisterly country or a foreign country,” he said in comments to the media.

Meanwhile, Kordahi told Lebanese TV station Al-Jadeed that his resignation is currently not on the table.

Lebanese relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained over growing Iranian influence in the small nation, where Riyadh has traditionally been a powerful ally. But the current crisis is the worst rift in years with Gulf nations.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the crisis is bigger than Kordahi’s comments, and is rooted in Hezbollah’s dominance of Lebanese politics.

“There is not a crisis between us and Lebanon. There is a crisis in Lebanon because of the domination of Iran’s agents on the scene,” the foreign minister said. “This is what concerns us and this is what makes dealing with Lebanon futile for the kingdom and Gulf countries.”

Lebanese officials have sought mediation from Washington with Saudi Arabia. The head of Lebanon’s government, Najib Mikati, flew to London, then Glasgow, where he is expected to meet with foreign dignitaries in search for a resolution to the row.

Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Houthis captured the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. That forced the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore the government to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Both sides are accused of grave human rights violations.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This image released by Netflix shows Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth in "The Crown." (Alex Baile...
Associated Press

‘The Crown’ back Nov. 9 for season 5 with new queen, Diana

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Crown” will return to its Netflix throne in early November. The drama series about Queen Elizabeth II and her extended family will begin its fifth season on Nov. 9, the streaming service said Saturday. The debut will come two months after the queen’s Sept. 8 death at the age of […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pharoah Sanders, influential jazz saxophonist, dies at 81

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Pharoah Sanders, the influential tenor saxophonist revered in the jazz world for the spirituality of his work, has died, his record label announced. He was 81. Sanders, also known for his extensive work alongside John Coltrane in the 1960s, died in Los Angeles early Saturday, said the tweet from Luaka Bop, […]
1 day ago
Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi acknowledges the audience applause after addressing the 77th sess...
Associated Press

China on Taiwan: ‘External interference’ won’t be tolerated

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim to Taiwan, telling world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be “crushed by the wheels of history.” The language was forceful but, for Chinese leadership, well within the realm of normal. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Crowded campsites, high demand cause fights, ‘camp pirates’

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Some Oregon parks officials say high demand for crowded campsites is leading to arguments, fistfights and even so-called “campsite pirates.” Brian Carroll with Linn County Parks and Recreation said park rangers have had to play mediator this summer as would-be campers argue over first-come, first-served campsites at Sunnyside County Park, the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Police in Laos seize meth pills in one of biggest busts

BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities in Laos have made their third largest seizure ever of methamphetamine, confiscating a haul of 33 million tablets along with 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine, an official with the U.N. anti-crime agency said Saturday. The huge bust came after 200,000 tablets were found Friday night in a truck that […]
1 day ago
A Police officer detains a demonstrator during a protest against a partial mobilization in Moscow, ...
Associated Press

Russian police block mobilization protests, arrest hundreds

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police moved quickly Saturday to disperse peaceful protests against President Vladimir Putin’s military mobilization order, arresting hundreds, including some children, in several cities across the vast country. Police detained more than 700 people, including over 300 in Moscow and about 150 in St. Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an independent website that […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Fate of Lebanon minister after row with Gulf stirs division