Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has made it a priority to counter the growing regional influence of Iran. The prince was displeased with Mr. Hariri’s leadership of a government that included Hezbollah, which has continued to gain new power and weaponry while intervening in the war in neighboring Syria.
Hezbollah has played a leading role in helping President Bashar al-Assad of Syria counter an insurgency that began with political protests nearly seven years ago and morphed into a multi-sided war.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters have gone to Syria and a smaller number to Iraq, transforming the organization from a militia originally formed to fight Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon into a regional force deploying outside Lebanon’s borders.
Nothing about that is expected to change because of the Saudi maneuvering to coerce Mr. Hariri. The attempt fizzled when Lebanon’s president refused to accept the resignation unless Mr. Hariri delivered it in person, and the normally fractious Lebanese united against the Saudi move. The Lebanese were backed by Western and Arab governments led by France and Egypt.
The Lebanese government also announced Tuesday that it was reaffirming its policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts, adopted in 2013 in an attempt to insulate the country from the war in neighboring Syria.
It has been a policy largely ignored, both by Hezbollah and by Mr. Hariri’s party’s offer of early support to Syrian rebels.
Nonetheless, the policy has worked to the extent that open war has not spread to Lebanon, despite its history of political and economic entanglement with Syria and its hosting of more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
One reason for the alarm over the Saudi move to pressure Mr. Hariri was the danger that it could further destabilize Lebanon.
Mr. Hariri said in a brief statement after a cabinet meeting Tuesday that the government had recommitted to dissociate “from any dispute and conflicts or wars, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arab states, in order to preserve the relationship between Lebanon and its Arab brethren.”