MidEast

Gulf States to Impose Sweeping Sanctions Against Hezbollah

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials have reportedly reached a consensus on measures to take against Hezbollah, after deputy interior ministers from the six member states met in Riyadh yesterday. Arab countries have in recent months become increasingly vocal in demanding that the international community take action against the Shiite organization, which they blame for conducting terrorism on their soil and assisting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime in massacring Sunnis at the behest of Tehran.

Earlier this week GCC nations called for an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting over the Syrian regime’s offensive on the city of Homs and regarding Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. The request was quickly blocked by Russia.

Gulf nations are now preparing to get physical:

The meeting was convened “to develop mechanisms to monitor movements, financial transactions and business operations of Hezbollah,” said Bahraini Deputy Interior Minister Khaled Al-Absi, in his opening speech at the meeting here. Al-Absi said two expert teams would be formed, one to “coordinate with central banks” and the second to review “legal, administrative and financial matters” linked to the sanctions… “The sanctions would be implemented “in coordination … with ministers of commerce and the central banks of the GCC,” said GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani after the meeting.

New sanctions will reportedly target “assets, individuals, corporates, visas and residency.” Lebanon experts have emphasized that concentrated, coordinated action by the Gulf states could be devestating for Lebanon:

“If the Gulf states really mean to put pressure on Lebanon, they could suffocate the country,” says Dr. Imad Salamey, political science professor at the Lebanese American University. Lebanon’s economy is dependent on the Gulf “in a very fundamental way” – from its backing up the Lebanese national currency, to the crucial commercial and financial investment, to the personal bank accounts Gulf citizens keep – but perhaps most crucially, in remittances.

The 350,000 – 400,000 Lebanese living and working in the Gulf… Their annual remittances – monies earned in the Gulf and sent back to Lebanon – account for 18 percent of Lebanon’s GDP… If the GCC countries make good on their thinly-veiled threats to expel Lebanese nationals for their purported involvement with Hezbollah, the fallout has the potential to seriously destabilize the country.

Hezbollah’s role in triggering GCC sanctions against Lebanon will likely reinforce analysis, voiced by among others Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow Tony Badran, suggesting that the group’s activities contribute directly and significantly to destabilizing Lebanon. Badran has suggested that the dynamic calls into question European resistance to blacklisting the group as a terror organization, inasmuch as that resistance is publicly justified by “a nifty conceit: designating Hezbollah could destabilize Lebanon.”

[Photo: AlJazeeraEnglish / Youtube]