Recently, both the GCC and the EU announced sanctions and other measures to hamstring Hezbollah's finances and support networks on the Arabian Peninsula and throughout Europe.
Both developments signal a significant push against the resistance group as a result of activity in Syria as well as in Europe.
How will the GCC and the EU approach sanctions and how will they complement each other?
Another question is how will the GCC and the EU implement these sanctions which are subject to interpretation of Hezbollah's vast support network?
The GCC states are planning robust sanctions against Hezbollah. These sanctions include freezing of assets belonging to Hezbollah supporters as well as deportation of suspected adherents.
Hezbollah in Saudi Arabia
For instance, Saudi Arabia has deported supporters of Hezbollah from its territory while Bahrain declared the organization to be a terrorist group in April 2013. Manama also called Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah a “terrorist.”
In June 2013, the GCC ministerial council decided “to take measures against those enlisted in the party (Hezbollah) residing in the member states, whether with regard to their residencies or their financial and commercial dealings” because of Hezbollah’s military activity in Syria.
On July 6, 2013 the Saudi daily Okaz reported that the Kingdom’s banks were prepared to cooperate “fully and transparently” with Saudi Arabia’s security apparatus in monitoring Hezbollah’s bank transactions, “after the party’s support for terrorist attacks has been proven.”
On the other hand, the EU’s decision to implement sanctions only focuses on Hezbollah’s military wing.
This finding by the 28 member EU is setting off a dispute between many parties concerning how to best define the division between the political and military wings of Hezbollah as well as the group’s activity in Syria.
Hezbollah in Europe
France pushed the EU to include the political wing because of Hezbollah’s activity in Syria but to no avail.
Consequently, some observers note that the Hezbollah’s political wing will still be able to conduct fundraising and recruitment in Europe.
Sanctions are not forcing Tehran and Pyongyang to change their behavior or reverse their nuclear programs.Dr. Theodore Karasik
It is well-known that there are countless Hezbollah political and donation organizations in Europe.
Within the EU, Germany is considered to be the center of Hezbollah activity with about 950 members operating within the country. In addition, Hezbollah’s political wing also hosts dozens of conferences across the continent. So the EU’s sanctions do not cut this type of activity.
Indeed, Hezbollah is a large and complex organization; the group does not make any differences between military and political wings.
Hezbollah maintains a widespread security apparatus, political organization, and social services network in Lebanon and promotes linkages with diaspora networks throughout Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, and North America.
Since 2012, alleged Hezbollah operatives have been detained in Nigeria, Thailand, and Cyprus. But the public entry of Hezbollah into Syria on May 25, 2013, along with accusations of the group’s involvement in an attack in Bulgaria on July 18, 2012, set both the GCC and EU on their current paths.
The challenge, of course, will be for balance between the GCC and the EU on sanctions-- which seems unlikely.
Given Hezbollah’s prowess, the group can find refuge in Europe and elsewhere as events unfold in the Levant that may further draw the ire of the GCC.
A group such as Hezbollah, which is described as “a state within a state,” learns from other countries such as Iran and North Korea on how to circumvent sanctions.
Sanctions are not forcing Tehran and Pyongyang to change their behavior or reverse their nuclear programs.
Clearly, multilateral sanctions such as those proposed by the GCC and the EU are not likely to have a positive effect due to the partial application by the EU as opposed to the comprehensive approach by the GCC.
Thus, GCC-EU relations will be tested as Hezbollah will be likely able to slip through the current sanctions effort.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angeles.