Arabic media review

Taking down Hezbollah

Arab Gulf nations announce efforts to shut down the Lebanese terror group’s operations in their countries

Michael Bassin is a founding member of the Gulf-Israel Business Council, a co-founder at ScaleUpSales Ltd, and the author of "I Am Not a Spy: An American Jew Goes Deep In The Arab World & Israeli Army."

Lebanese, Palestinian and Hezbollah flags on the northern side of Israel's border with Lebanon. (Hamad Almakt/Flash90/File)
Lebanese, Palestinian and Hezbollah flags on the northern side of Israel's border with Lebanon. (Hamad Almakt/Flash90/File)

The six nations making up the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain — have issued a list of recommendations that will effectively shut down all Hezbollah-related operations and associations in their jurisdictions, Arab media leads off.

The London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reports that the recommendations were made during a meeting of GCC interior ministers and their advisers in Riyadh yesterday. The recommendations are aimed at not only preventing any “terror-related activities, but also to shut down Hezbollah’s sources of financing.” The list is seen as a followup to a GCC proposal issued in July 2012 to address Hezbollah’s actions.

Most notably, tiny Bahrain has been the main GCC member to take serious action against Hezbollah’s interests in the country, partially due to Hezbollah’s support of Bahraini Shiite dissidents. Other nations have grown increasingly upset by Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war on the side of the government.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain enacted legislation to protect society from criminal and terrorist activities,” said Major-General Khalid Salem Al-Absi, the undersecretary of the Bahraini Interior Ministry. “Regulations have been made regarding the collection and transfer of funds. . .This follows the EU’s decision to include the military wing of Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations.”

Likewise, the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat states that the Kuwaiti government is playing a prominent role in shutting down Hezbollah in the region as well. A source in the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry told the daily that Kuwait would like to move against all terrorist organizations, not just Hezbollah, but laments being a small country and “not a major player.”

An interview with Saudi financial journalist Salman Al-Dosari in the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya reveals that “the Gulf states intend to monitor any suspicious movements or wire transfers to Hezbollah. They are trying to reveal any sleeper cells that may be present. . . The high frequency of threats by Hezbollah, echoed by relations with Iran and Syria, are propelling a new level of security cooperation in the region.”

The GCC countries are working to assure the Lebanese government that their efforts to stamp out Hezbollah from their countries do not reflect a diplomatic shift in the least. Nevertheless, following the meeting of interior ministers yesterday, the GCC did publicly call on the Lebanese government to keep all Lebanese forces outside the fighting in Syria, a pointed reference to Hezbollah.

Lebanese citizens living and working in the Gulf are not convinced and are increasingly worried that their lives may be turned upside down as a result of GCC’s new aggressive approach against Hezbollah. Since Hezbollah represents a major social movement in Lebanon, along with its political and military branches, many of the Gulf region’s 360,000 Lebanese citizens have direct or indirect ties with it.

The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi notes that just in the past few months, a number of Lebanese citizens have been expelled from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi, Arabia, and Qatar. GCC countries have promised that “in the event of the existence of any links to Hezbollah, Lebanese citizens will not receive a renewal of their residency permits or may face deportation. Lebanese citizens attempting to enter the GCC will be subject to a large audit.”

Lebanese citizens working in the Gulf currently contribute $4 billion to the Lebanese economy in remittances every year. Major efforts against those with Hezbollah ties could severely affect the Lebanese economy.

Private Israeli security consultants and Israeli government officials have long been rumored to be advising the GCC governments on combating terror groups. However, none of the major dailies report on any cooperation between Israel and the GCC on reining in Hezbollah.

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