Riyadh nips Hezbollah-Future Movement dialogue in the bud

Riyadh has ‘red-lighted’ the planned dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement before it even began. The Saudi call for Hezbollah to be put on the list of terrorist organizations made at the United Nations threatens to renew tension between the two sides, following an undeclared truce in the media that did not last for more than a few days.

Is there a fixed Saudi, and consequently Gulf policy, vis-à-vis Lebanon? Are these countries really keen on the stability of this country, as they claim, when they hardly spare any occasion to exacerbate its divisions? These questions and others are being asked after the new Saudi escalation against Hezbollah, which is likely to aggravate the already complex situation in Lebanon and the region.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah al-Mouallimi called on the UN Security Council on Wednesday to place the Resistance Party on the list of terrorist organizations. In a special session on terrorism, Mouallimi called for punishing Hezbollah and other groups including the Abu al Fadl al Abbas Brigade, the League of the Righteous, and other “terrorist organizations fighting in Syria.”

Al-Akhbar learned that as a result of the new Saudi position, contacts will be made with Riyadh over the next few days to contain possible reactions. Well-placed sources warned against negative repercussions from the Saudi move over the ‘preliminary dialogue’ between Hezbollah and the Future Movement.

The sources expressed concern that this could put an end to the de-escalation that begun when Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking during the Shia Muslim commemorations of Ashura, welcomed dialogue with the Future Movement. The sources told Al-Akhbar that the Saudi move, in addition to the sudden re-activation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after a long period of inactivity, by summoning political witnesses, will create tensions in the country, and are indicative of a Saudi veto on dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.

The sources asked, “How do the Saudis explain their position when barely two months have passed since their ambassador in Beirut Ali Awad Asiri celebrated his country’s National Day surrounded by deputies from Hezbollah? Why has Saudi Arabia made this call two days after the GCC summit, and as the UAE – which is influenced to a large extent by Riyadh’s position – placed a number of organizations on its terror list not including Hezbollah?”

The sources deduced that the Saudi policy is not yet ready to restore its balance in Lebanon and the region. The sources also had questions about Saudi-Israeli ‘intersection’ over trying to smear Hezbollah’s image as a resistance movement and link it to terrorism, something that Tel Aviv has sought for very long.

The sourced described Mouallimi’s speech at the UN as a ‘sound bubble’ that will have no results, recalling Nasrallah’s declaration that Hezbollah will be where it has to be in Syria. They said the Saudi UN envoy’s move “demonstrates real disappointment in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the failure of its project in Syria, with [Saudi]… making random accusations right and left.”

The sources pointed out that the Saudi envoy, in the course of justifying his call, cited the emergence of terror groups like ISIS and others, which he linked to the “practices of the Syrian regime” and the “sectarian policies of some countries,” rather than Saudi and Gulf support for these groups. The sources added, “Saudi Arabia is among the top supporters of terrorist Takfiri groups in Syria, which makes its talk about fighting terrorism lacking in any seriousness.”

The sources then linked the Saudi position to “growing concerns in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and real fear from the possibility of the parties reaching an agreement that would undermine the Saudi leadership’s hopes to step up the siege on Iran.”

The sources ruled out any practical effect of the Saudi position in light of the current balance of power in the international organization, and in light of the responses the Saudi envoy heard regarding his proposal.

Iran’s envoy at the United Nations Gholam Hossein Dehghani had responded to Mouallimi’s call by emphasizing the need to make a distinction between legitimate resistance and terrorism, and the need to support the resistance. He also criticized regional countries for failing to match their words with deeds, and said that few governments in the region have taken the threat seriously, while the rest did not control their borders, did not trop ISIS from recruiting, and did not stop the flow of financial support to these “criminal organizations.”

For his part, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari accused Saudi Arabia of backing terrorism in the region, denouncing the inconsistencies in its diagnosis of the roots of terrorism. He said that al-Qaeda and its ilk had all grown thanks to Saudi patronage in Afghanistan. Jaafari also said that the carnage in Syria is supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, citing the call by 72 Saudi clerics for people to go for “jihad” in Syria, and wondered whether the Saudi government was serious about fighting terrorism.

Source: Al-Akhbar English

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