Lebanon’s president visits Riyadh

Lebanon’s president visits Riyadh

On Monday, Lebanon’s recently elected president, Michel Aoun, will visit Saudi Arabia on his first foreign visit. Aoun will be

Photo: Dalati Nohra/AP

Photo: Dalati Nohra/AP

On Monday, Lebanon’s recently elected president, Michel Aoun, will visit Saudi Arabia on his first foreign visit. Aoun will be hoping to normalise relations between the two, but any rapprochement will be complicated by Aoun’s 10-year political alliance with Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

While ties have historically been strong between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is concerned that regional rival Iran could use Hezbollah to control Lebanon; the Shi’ite group is considered to be more powerful than the Lebanese Army.

Aoun intends to persuade Riyadh to recommence its $4 billion grant to the Lebanese Army and allow Gulf citizens to again travel to Lebanon. If the military grant is reinstated, Saudi Arabia will seek assurances that the weapons will not fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which is currently fighting Saudi-backed rebels in support of the Syrian government.

Considering that Iran has also offered to arm Lebanon’s military, Saudi Arabia is likely to revive the military grant after Monday’s discussions in an attempt to curb Tehran’s influence.