Hezbollah’s interests in Arab countries, particularly in Gulf ones, are not insignificant. The party, which has become hated, perhaps more than Israel, has deep-rooted connections in the region through front corporate entities that work for it.
The U.S.’s pursuit of Hezbollah has shown that its commercial activities vary from smuggling cigarettes to making money transfers. They have also sponsored complicated cells in which individuals are used for economic or political gains.
The six Gulf countries are not similar with regards to their treatment of Hezbollah’s commercial activities. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE are stricter than the others and monitor transactions far more thoroughly. Kuwait is the most lenient Gulf country with Hezbollah, and it is home to business entities that are active in Hezbollah controlled areas of Lebanon. Qatar does not have huge, multi-national companies, as is the case in other Gulf countries, but Qatar has financially and politically supported Hezbollah for an entire decade. This was before the Syrian revolution, and it is unlikely that any aspect of this special relationship still exists. Oman, of all the Gulf countries, is the most cautious in dealing with suspicious states.
Hezbollah’s operations against the GCC
Although Hezbollah is involved in terrorist operations against Kuwait, Saudi and Bahrain, and has been for decades, these countries did not do anything against it. Hezbollah was completely involved in the attempt to assassinate Kuwait’s emir in a car bomb in 1985. The major culprit in that crime is Mustapha Badreddine. He was the perpetrator and he is also wanted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in their investigation of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The paradox is that Saddam Hussein released him five years later after he invaded Kuwait! Hezbollah also hijacked a Kuwaiti airplane in Muscat and killed two Kuwaiti passengers.
Although Hezbollah has been involved in terrorist operations against Kuwait, Saudi and Bahrain for decades, these countries did not do anything against itAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Several Hezbollah terrorist plans in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have also been uncovered, and the party was not punished for any. Only the U.S., which categorized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1995, placed it on the list of sanctioned organizations. Gulf countries chose to remain silent regarding Hezbollah’s crimes against its governments and citizens, because it was seen as a resistance organization with popular support among Arabs, when in fact it was a helpful hand of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards helpful hand. Gulf countries also wanted to maintain the balance of power in Lebanon and it maintained minimal relations with Hezbollah in order to support civil peace in Lebanon.
Gulf countries have finally decided to categorize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization after it became a major party fighting along Bashar al-Assad’s regime and is involved in the murder thousands of Syrians. Although the move comes late, I doubt that it will be implemented on different levels, and it will remain simply a political decision.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.