The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia formally declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization on Wednesday (March 2). The group has already been declared a terrorist entity by the European Union and the United States.
Hezbollah was blacklisted by the group in response to hostile acts perpetrated within GCC member states, the GCC said in a statement. Among the offenses listed were attempts to recruit new terrorists and smuggling weapons and explosives. In particular, Hezbollah’s support for the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is of great concern to the Saudis and its Gulf partners.
The other five members of the GCC are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. All have recently withdrawn staff members from their embassies in Beirut and issued warnings to their citizens against travel to Lebanon.
The move is seen by analysts as the lining up of Sunni Muslim nations against the Shi’ite Iranian axis being formed in the region. But it is also a move by Saudi Arabia to draw closer to the Western world at a time when radical Islamists are pulling Muslim-majority nations in the opposite direction.
Arab leaders are being faced with a difficult choice: join the 21st century with the West or risk one’s role at the top by either doing nothing or siding with extremist Islamists. As deeply conservative and even radical Saudi Arabia itself might be, it appears that its leadership sees the writing on the wall and has opted to avoid another Arab Spring.
Hezbollah has been sending fighters to the Syrian front for years to battle on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Hezbollah has also provided training and other technical assistance to Hamas on behalf of Iran prior to the Gaza-based terrorist group’s wars with Israel.