Lebanon Faces Deepening Economic Crisis as Saudis Cut Ties Over Iran

Saudi Arabia banned imports from Lebanon and, along with three other Gulf states, expelled its ambassador following remarks by an official about the war in Yemen, as long-simmering tensions over Iran’s influence in Lebanon spill over and threaten to damage its already disastrous economy, the Wall Street Journal reported. The comments, made by Georges Kordahi in August before he left a high-profile television job to join the government as information minister, centered on the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen against Houthi rebels, who, backed by Iran, deposed the Yemeni government in 2014 and now control much of the country. “The Houthis are defending themselves in the face of foreign aggression,” he said in an interview aired by Al Jazeera. Saudi Arabia has faced intense criticism in the West over the Yemen war, but Mr. Kordahi’s remarks, circulated widely online last week, raised hackles anew in Riyadh and across the Gulf—evidence, Riyadh says, of Iran’s growing dominance in Lebanon. The Gulf states have been dismayed by failure of other political factions to offset Iran’s sway in Lebanon, which has provided Tehran access to the Mediterranean as well as regional influence through Hezbollah, a political and militant movement with operations in Syria and Yemen, too. Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a decades-old competition for regional hegemony, backing opposing sides in a range of armed conflicts, including in Iraq and Syria. In a potential thaw, the rivals have held four rounds of direct talks on Yemen and other bilateral disputes this year but they have produced no tangible results, and Riyadh is losing patience. Read more. (Subscription required.)