Missing Lebanese Prime Minister Stirs Tensions in the Middle East

A week after the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, flew to Saudi Arabia and announced his resignation, what seemed at first like a bizarre domestic political dispute is escalating tensions in the Middle East and threatening to become a flash point in the struggle for power there.

On Friday, Mr. Hariri remained stranded in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah said the Saudis were holding him against his will, while the Saudis have said there was a plot to assassinate him.

Fractious Lebanese politics and interference in them by Saudi Arabia, Iran and a host of other powers are nothing new, but the Hariri case has become part of a high-stakes buildup of tension that is fueling anxiety about whether the region is on the verge of war.

The United States on Friday urged calm, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warning “against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country,” a message apparently aimed at Hezbollah as well as Saudi Arabia.

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