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I, the Hon. Saad Hariri, once and apparently future prime minister of Lebanon, cannot even now be sure what happened to me or my poor squeezed country during the past few weeks, but will tell you the worst of it all as best I now can:

It was not supposed to have gone down like this, not at all. On the contrary, it was supposed to have been the usual state visit to the nearby regional power by one of its loyal if independent-minded vassals and advisers. The trip had been in the planning stages for some time, but you know how to make Allah laugh, don't you? Make plans.

The plan was for me to go camping in the desert with Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman. Which was why I wore jeans and a T-shirt. Instead, I was shoved around and called names by Saudi mobsters who called themselves a security detail. Worst of all in this electronic age, my cellphones were taken away, and I was treated as the contemporary equivalent of a biblical leper--isolated and abandoned except by my minders. Only then was I handed the speech I was supposed to have written announcing my resignation as prime minister. The minders forced me to recite it on television.

I was scarcely dressed for the occasion, and was obliged to ask my guards to bring me a suit for my command performance. Rather than being treated as a trusted ally, I'd been demoted to just another employee of the Saudi monarchy and told to blame that regime's problem on its Iranian rivals. I was treated just the way I had treated so many others whom I'd abused. The line between justice and vengeance had grown bleary indeed in my dire circumstances. Which soon enough will be shared by my tormentors and masters as the iron wheel of history keeps turning over those it crushes beneath its treads.

Even stranger episodes are doubtless to come, for the supposed masterminds behind all these Saudi intrigues may not know as much as they think they do--about either their friends or enemies. They were going to drive Iranian-backed rebels in adjoining Yemen out of power, but succeeded only in strengthening them. They were going to blockade Qatar, but have succeeded only in pushing it closer to the despised Iranian regime. And they were going to make me an object lesson for any future leader of Lebanon that defied their orders. Instead I am back in office and more popular than ever. Determined to teach me a lesson, maybe they've been taught one instead. Whether that lesson has been learned, only a now veiled future can reveal. For now, as usual, all is murk.

So much for the grand plans of little minds. And yet there are those Great Thinkers who now say the world is entering a new era of stability in which the new Big Three--USA, Russia, and China--will dictate its future. We'll see about that. Just as, on a smaller scale, the Saudis now have seen where all their intrigues have led them: Right back to square one.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 01/10/2018

Print Headline: That's the Middle East

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