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Drug fight not real excuse behind Saudi ban on Lebanon imports: Expert

File photo of agricultural workers in Lebanon

Political expert discredits Saudi Arabia’s alleged excuse for banning agricultural imports from Lebanon, saying Riyadh is rather trying to exert pressure on the country at a time, when it can use every bit of assistance.

Nasser Qandil, editor-in-chief of Lebanon's al-Binaa newspaper, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday, addressing the ban that had been imposed by the Saudi kingdom under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking.

He specified the actual reason behind the prohibition as “political motivation,” saying if Riyadh actually wanted to fight drug trafficking it could easily act through its ambassador in Beirut and contact the relevant Lebanese officials.

The closure of the kingdom’s border to the Lebanese goods at a time, when Lebanon is going through an unbearable economic crisis, would only make the agricultural sector start pressuring the authorities to restore the exports, Qandil said.

This would, in turn, have the Lebanese political actors try to ingratiate themselves to the Saudis by enabling election of Riyadh’s favorite choice for Lebanon’s prime minister.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been tasked with forming a cabinet four times in six months, but has failed to do so on all the occasions.

Some observers have attributed the continual failure to his succumbing to pressure from the US, France, and Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom, where Hariri has been born, has a long history of intervening in Lebanon’s affairs, including by preventing Hariri from leaving the kingdom during a trip that he had made in 2017.

The expert also recalled an episode in 2015, when Lebanon arrested a Saudi prince, with two tons of amphetamines in Beirut, and the kingdom’s subsequent efforts to have the royal released. Qandil asked how could the Saudis be serious about fighting drugs this time around if they were trying to bail out the notorious royal back then.

The import ban was, therefore, a ploy used by the kingdom to worsen Lebanon’s situation, he noted.

Riyadh, he added, was also trying to penalize Lebanon over the far-reaching influence and integration of the resistance movement of Hezbollah in the country’s political and defensive structure.

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