Lebanon’s PM urges Hezbollah not to attack Saudis, Gulf states

Saudi Arabia moves to counter the Iran-Hezbollah Shi’ite axis.

March 8, 2016 20:00
2 minute read.
LOCALS IN NABATIYA, south Lebanon, carry Hezbollah and Lebanese flags

LOCALS IN NABATIYA, south Lebanon, carry Hezbollah and Lebanese flags on May 24 while the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on a screen at a festival to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam urged Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah not to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states in an interview on the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya on Tuesday.

Salam criticized Hezbollah’s intervention in conflicts in the region, saying it reflected negatively on Lebanon. He also noted that Lebanon has traditionally had strong relations with Gulf states.

Last week, the Lebanese Shi’ite group slammed the decision by Gulf states to designate it a terrorist organization.

“The decision by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] is reckless and hostile and is condemned. The Saudi regime bears responsibility for its issuing and for the consequences,” the group’s bloc in parliament said.

The six-member council took the step last Wednesday, opening up the possibility of further sanctions against Hezbollah.

Relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have been in crisis since Riyadh froze $3 billion in aid to the Lebanese army in response to the Beirut government’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The Saudis made a number of additional moves on Tuesday to counter the Iran-Hezbollah Shi’ite axis. A flurry of reports in the Saudi-backed London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat described the actions.

Gulf diplomatic sources told the paper that the GCC foreign ministers are scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Riyadh to discuss Arab national security and the preparation of a report about Iranian and Hezbollah interference in Arab affairs and their involvement in regional terrorism.

Iranian interference has become “dangerous,” creating the need to “take urgent action to stop the expansion of Iranian terrorism,” said the sources.

Arab League states will also discuss Iran’s actions during its meetings and at Thursday’s meeting of Arab foreign ministers, said the report.

Separately, the Saudi Council of Ministers approved a draft for military cooperation between their country and Djibouti, which lies across from Yemen, separated by the Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Saudi Arabia is currently involved in a war in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthis.

Djibouti’s ambassador in Riyadh, Ziauddin Bamakhrama, said he is looking forward to signing an agreement that would establish a Saudi military base in Djibouti.

He told Asharq al-Awsat that military, economic and political relations with Saudi Arab were improving, adding that his country is guarding against Iranian attempts to expand its influence by arming the Houthis in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers headed by King Salman on Monday reaffirmed the decision of the GCC to label Hezbollah a terrorist group.

The cabinet said, according to the report, that the GCC action came “after taking into account its continuing hostilities and its flagrant violation of sovereignty of Gulf states and its destabilizing of regional security and stability as well as its practices, which are contrary to humanitarian values and international laws.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed bin Hasan Asiri, adviser at the office of the Saudi defense minister, said a large military drill, called North Thunder, is currently under way in the north of the country and includes 20 Arab and Islamic countries.

“The drill includes helicopters and fighter jets targeting areas where ground forces engage with terrorist elements, in addition to saving members of the joint forces trapped in hostile areas, and clearing all enemy areas,” he said, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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