Saudi Arabia orders citizens to leave Lebanon as tension rises
Riyadh: Order raises fears that regional power battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran may be building towards military confrontation
Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately, escalating a regional standoff with Iran centred on the fragile state, which it claims is being run by Tehran's proxy, Hezbollah.
The move follows a week of bellicose rhetoric from the Sunni Arab powerhouse about its Shia rival, drawing strong support from Donald Trump and Israel, all three of whom insist Iran is forging strongholds across the region.
The standoff has taken tensions between Riyadh and Tehran to new levels and raised fears that decades of distrust and manoeuvrings between the two may be building towards a military confrontation, underwritten by the Trump administration and joined by Israel.
The Saudi order for its citizens to leave, also made by the kingdom's allies in Bahrain and Kuwait, came after the country's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said his government would treat Lebanon as a hostile state as long as Hezbollah was in the government. He described Hezbollah's participation in government as an "act of war" against Saudi Arabia. The Israeli intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, said on Thursday he believed conditions were ripe for a diplomatic offensive against Iran and Hezbollah at the United Nations, where he said Israel would seek better enforcement of a 2006 ceasefire agreement that called on Hezbollah to disarm and stay away from its border. Workers hang a poster of outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri with the Arabic words 'We are all Saad' in Beirut. The emergence of the reported memo sent to Israeli missions around the world strongly echoes public statements made by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman.