Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia in a surprise move that plunged the country into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions, the AP reports. In a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off." "The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it," Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife, and destruction throughout the region. Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that included the Shiite militant Hezbollah. The government has largely succeeded in protecting the country from the effects of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon is sharply divided along a camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, headed by the Sunni Muslim Hariri, and a camp loyal to Iran represented by Hezbollah. President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than two years of presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah. His election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint him as prime minister. In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri's return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly. Hariri's bombshell resignation Saturday was expected to raise tensions in the country and ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability.