Sketchy TV Interview Raises Concerns The Lebanese PM Is Being Held Hostage

Lebanon’s maybe, maybe-not prime minister has issued his first public statement after announcing his resignation in Saudi Arabia, saying that he’s free to leave the Gulf state whenever he damn wants.

However, his admission hasn’t done much to convince critics the Saudi government hasn’t effectively been holding him hostage since the November 4 announcement.

In a television interview, Saad Hariri said “I’m free, I could leave tomorrow”, but insisted he’s chosen to stay for a while longer after an apparent threat on his life.

A shaken Hariri said that he’d return to Lebanon “very soon” to officially tender his resignation from the government, but the alleged threat – which comes after the 2005 assassination of his father – convinced him to reassess his security protocols.

Notably, Lebanese security authorities say they have no record of a credible threat against Hariri.

As for the resignation itself, Hariri said it was designed to be a “positive shock” to the nation’s coalition government, formed between his pro-Saudi party and the vehemently anti-Saudi political wing of Hezbollah.

Hariri said that Hezbollah had not kept its end of an agreement to limit Iranian meddling in regional affairs, and that relations with Arab nations were suffering as a result.

He also said he’d consider rescinding his resignation if Hezbollah agreed to curtail its aggressive foreign policies, including the deployment of Lebanese troops to bolster the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad – another regime the Saudis oppose.

Those remarks have only fuelled speculation that Hariri’s resignation was coerced by Saudi officials, who could benefit by seeing the Hezbollah-inclusive government crumble.

The interview was shown on a television channel affiliated with Hariri’s party, and several other networks refused to air it over fears his comments were not made freely. Viewers have commented on Hariri’s tired and nervous appearance, and the fact he seemed to be distracted by a figure off-screen:

Hariri’s statement comes amid a period of incredible political upheaval in Saudi Arabia. In the past fortnight, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has locked up scores of political rivals on charges of corruption.