x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

GCC meets to discuss sanctions on Hizbollah

Interior ministries across the GCC are to meet next Thursday to plan a clampdown on Hezbollah members in the region.

DUBAI // A clampdown on Hizbollah members in the region will be planned by the GCC this week.

Action against the Lebanese militant group will be discussed by interior ministry officials in Riyadh on Thursday.

Sanctions on "residency, financial and trade transactions" will be debated, according to Abdullatif Al Zayani, the general secretary of the GCC.

"The under secretaries will set the mechanisms to implement the decision in coordination with other bodies, including ministries of trade, monetary institutions and central banks across the GCC states," he said.

The GCC's six member states agreed this month to act against Hizbollah affiliates within the region in response to the group's interference in the Syria conflict.

The group's involvement reached a peak in the battle for Qusayr, where Hizbollah fighters played an important role in aiding troops loyal to the president, Bashar Al Assad.

The battle was a key victory for Mr Al Assad because the town is on the road linking Damascus with the coast. Rebels were also using the town as a transit point for weapons and fighters from neighbouring Lebanon.

Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research and consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the GCC's action was a direct result of Hizbollah's involvement in Syria.

"It will prepare the ground for some GCC countries to add a new level of financial and military aid for the rebels in Syria," he said, calling the move a natural progression of the GCC's deteriorating relationship with Hizbollah.

 

"The relationship between the GCC-countries and Hizbollah has been going downhill because of the Sunni-Shia division and this decision is a public manifestation of it," Dr Karasik said.

The council was likely to discuss blocking the bank accounts of supporters and deporting them, he added.

Qatar recently deported 18 Lebanese citizens affiliated to Hizbollah, while other countries in the region, including the UAE, have in the past deported suspected Hizbollah followers.

"We have seen a crackdown on supporters of Hizbollah before but this will be more public and it will have teeth," Dr Karasik said.

Dr Abdullah Al Khaleeq, a professor of political science at Emirates University, said Hizbollah "did something they should not have done by going outside Lebanon and engaging in aggression against a neighbouring country in this public manner".

"There is no doubt that this is breaking an important rule, hence it is legitimate to take action. Someone has to send a message to Hizbollah and other paramilitary organisations that this is unacceptable and this action has been taken by the GCC."

wissa@thenational.ae