Moments ago, the majority of foreign ministers of the Arab League agreed to label Hezbollah a “terrorist group”. This move comes amid increasing anti-Shia sentiment in many Sunni-dominated Gulf monarchies which have also declared Houthis (Yemeni Shia tribe) and Hezbollah (Lebanese Shia) as terrorists and severed all ties with Iran themselves.
Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision; however, Lebanon and Iraq expressed “reservations”, the bloc said in a statement read by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.
The announcement comes days after the GCC also declared the group a “terrorist” organisation, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to withhold 4 billion dollars of military support for Lebanon’s government.
At that time, the GCC’s secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani said Hezbollah was responsible for “terrorist and subversive acts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, which contradict moral and humanitarian values and principles and the international law and pose a threat to Arab national security”.
Gulf states maintain that Hezbollah-linked groups continue to pose a threat within their own borders. For instance, in January, Bahrain said it had dismantled a “terror” cell allegedly linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. That same month, a lower Kuwaiti court sentenced 22 Shiite citizens for “plotting Hezbollah-linked attacks” and “spying for Iran” inside Kuwait.
Meanwhile, the United States, Canada and Australia have also listed Hezbollah as a “terrorist” group. Meanwhile, the European Union has also blacklisted its military wing.
In late 2011, the Syrian Government was expelled from the Arab League mainly due to outburst of the war in Syria. Damascus and Hezbollah have since enjoyed close cooperation inside Syria with the aforementioned parties launching several joint offensives against rebel forces beginning with al-Qusayr in 2013.
Today’s Arab League decision is likely related to this increased cooperation between Bashar al-Assad’s government and Hassan Nasrallah’s group.