The Saudis brought enough pressure, and presumably wrote enough checks, to get most Arab Ministers of Interior at a meeting this week to vote on calling Hezbollah a “terrorist” group. Europeans only consider the military wing of it a sponsor of “terrorism”. Americans are more in line with the Saudis: everything that has anything to do with Hezbollah is terrorist, including its TV network.
This new vote does not create many problem for most Arab states. Most of them take the Saudi or Emirati money and go home. They make the occasional right noises about Hezbollah, but it is too far away and they know its focus is on the periphery of Lebanon, unlike the Wahhabi groups which are global.
But this does create an interesting dilemma for two Arab states: Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s man in Lebanon, former PM Saad Hariri, has said that negotiations with Hezbollah continue. Other politicians of the March 14 (Saudi-financed) movement disavowed that their foe, Hezbollah, is a terrorist group. Otherwise, how can they be seen to negotiate and form a cabinet with Hezbollah (which is also the largest political party in Lebanon)?
Complications for the Lebanese, no?
But complications for the Saudis as well. They have been embroiled in a war against Yemen for a year now. It is war without end, as I could have told them last year, actually I did. I had thought Vietnam proved that the most expensive weapons can’t win a foreign civil war. Apparently that period of history bypassed the princes. The deposed former ‘president’ of Yemen General Hadi Bin Zombie occasionally claims from his Riyadh hotel that Hezbollah agents were arrested in Yemen, he did so again last week. Yet he and his foreign bosses have failed to produce any such arrested Lebanese agents.
The Yemen war is easy to get out of, at some cost of losing face. They can always declare victory in Yemen and pull out. The USA did it in Vietnam, with no lasting negative effect.
Getting out of Lebanon is harder, more complex. Unlike the Houthis of Yemen, Hezbollah is a true ally and beneficiary of Iran. Unlike the Houthis and Iraqis and many Hezbollah members, its chief Hassan Nasrallah himself believes in the theocracy. It is not clear if he means that he believes in it in Iran only or even outside that country. His close Lebanese Christian allies don’t seem to take it seriously, nor do his Lebanese Sunni allies.
Still, giving the Iranian mullahs a black eye in Lebanon is an irresistible goal for the Saudis. It is a goal that seems to be moving farther and farther way from them. The Israelis have failed to do it militarily for them so far, and seem to have given up unless seriously provoked. The Americans, under both George W Bush and Obama, have declined to be drawn into the morass of the warlord-dominated shifting politics of Lebanon.
The Saudis have now persuaded their Persian Gulf allies to impose an economic blockade on Lebanon. It is not original (the Saudis are never original): they probably mean to ratchet it up, like the now-defunct Western blockade of Iran…..
And that is where it stands now………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum