Moments after landing in Beirut on November 21, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited the grave of his late father Rafiq. The symbolism of that move, after his enigmatic resignation on November 4, defines the Hariri dynasty that has now survived the 2005 assassination of its founder Rafiq and a recent quasi coup attempt against the heir Saad.
That dynasty has been beset in the past few years by its Saudi enabler, dissolving its construction empire and reprimanding its reluctance to confront Hezbollah.
The prime minister’s triumphant return to Beirut followed by the decision to suspend his resignation breathed new life into the Hariri dynasty and the Lebanese oligarchy that embraced Saad. However, containing the long-term repercussions of Lebanon’s latest political turmoil will largely depend on the relation between that dynasty and its enabler. It is a relation shaped by four factors: the shakeup in Saudi politics, the Saudi-Iranian regional enmity, Lebanon’s internal dynamics and the struggle within Hariri’s Future Movement (al-Mustaqbal).
It is now increasingly apparent that Hariri’s abrupt resignation was about Saudi, not Lebanese politics. Riyadh treated Lebanon’s prime minister as a Saudi citizen whose businesses have long been under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s intense scrutiny. What Riyadh will do about Saudi Oger, the construction business empire that Rafiq Hariri built, is crucial, as Saad Hariri must secure financial resources to sustain the dynasty and fund his election campaign in Lebanon.