The November 3 lunch in Beirut that Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, organised for the visiting French cultural minister Francoise Nyssen could have passed off as another routine affair. Midway into their meal, however, Hariri received a call that not only dramatically turned the cordial atmosphere frosty but was a strident signal of the drastic climate change that has been taking place across West Asian geo-politics over the past few years.
Hariri’s arrival in Riyadh within the next few hours and the announcement of his resignation as PM through a televised address in the Saudi capital only thickened the fug of existing intrigue.
The Lebanese leader’s leave of absence from his country has already led to speculations that he is under detention in Saudi custody and sparked off street protests in Lebanon, demanding his immediate return. But the fast-paced developments are also being keenly analysed in world capitals, and many see them as a significant frontier of the ongoing Shia-Sunni proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.