A Farsi version of this article appeared in the Iran’s state newspaper Jam-E-Jam, November 12, 2016.
Saudi Arabia has introduced a new phenomenon to the modern world; a kind of political hostage-taking, in which a tribal regime has availed itself of modern international legal instruments to advance its primitive policies. Mandatory residence and resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri in Saudi Arabia has put forth important questions regarding the reason, legal consequences, response of the countries and international organizations to it, and finally the issue of “breaking the law through legal instruments”- to which the United States has given rise-, and the essay makes an attempt to deal with them.
Why is Saudi Arabia removing its most important ally in Lebanon?
Regional developments have long been against Saudi’s desire; on the one hand, the victory of the Axis of Resistance in the war on terrorism in Syria and Iraq has increased Iran’s regional power and influence; on the other hand, the decrease of Saudi Arabia’s direct military intervention in Yemen, the disagreements between the countries of the Arabian Gulf region and also the unsuccessful efforts to remove Lebanon’s Hezbollah from the power structure have all turned Saudi Arabia into a potential loser in the transition period in the regional power system in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia has tried to introduce Hezbollah and Iran as the cause of the resignation of Saad Hariri and the emergence of a political void in the Lebanese sovereignty structure so that it could create tension and internal disagreements against the Axis of Resistance while increasing economic pressure on Lebanon as well as making the crisis so critical in such a manner that the only way to sustain the Axis of Resistance would be the retreat of Hezbollah and other political groups opposed to Saudi. In practice, however, the vigilance of Hezbollah and al-Mustaqbal led, unlike Saudi’s desire, to strengthening the unity of the Lebanese, and even the most important Saudi allies in the Lebanese sovereignty were forced to take a firm stand against Saudi Arabia.
An American trick for Breaking the Law through Legal Instruments
Pointing to Hariri’s Lebanese-Saudi citizenship, some analysts say that Saudi Arabia has tried to rescind Hariri’s political immunity following his resignation so that they can detain him as a Saudi citizen by plotting corruption charges. In accordance with Articles 29 and 31 of the Vienna Convention on political relations, officials, including heads of states, enjoy full political and judicial immunity and cannot be detained at any time. Another important point is that the cancellation of a political envoy’s immunity is feasible only through the written declaration of the sending country. Therefore, in this particular case, even if Hariri resigned willingly, the immunities will be enforced until the Lebanese government declares cancellation of his political immunity formally and through a written declaration, and Saudi Arabia cannot detain or rather arrest him under the pretext of Hariri’s Saudi citizenship.
Maybe that is the reason why Saudi Arabia refuses to announce Hariri’s arrest publicly. Saudi’s young leaders are now well versed in these American tricks on breaking the laws in an apparently legal manner. If we take a look at the structure of American sanctions against Iran, and in particular the post-JCPOA sanctions, we see a complex process of legislation that allow the United States to act contrary to the objectives of these laws and treaties without violating international treaties and laws. This is the trick that the new Saudi leaders have taken on the issue of Bahrain, Yemen and now Lebanon, in spite of the fact that their performance seems not as suitable as their American mentors.
Where is the Security Council?
But the third question to be answered is the role of international organizations and the Security Council in solving the Saudi crisis and the modern process of “hostage-taking of officials” by this country. Now even the US State Department, the most important Saudi ally, has implicitly confessed Hariri’s capture in Saudi Arabia. Hostage-taking of the head of government of a foreign country is unprecedented in the history of contemporary international relations and to ridicule all the values and principles that underpinned the creation of the United Nations, the Security Council and international law over the past few decades. If Saudi’s oil and financial strength is the reason why these international institutions are completely silent, then perhaps it would be better to talk about the end of the Western international system and the attempt to formulate a new and collective mechanism, which is what Iran is preparing for.
*Mojtaba Mousavi is the founder and editor of Iran’s View.