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Saudi Arabia renews verbal attacks against Hezbollah and its allies after March ‘terrorist’ designation

After labeling Lebanon-based Shi’a Islamist militant group a “terrorist organization” in March, Saudi Arabia renewed its attacks on the group during speeches on Monday.

During a Saudi Cabinet meeting on Monday, a group of ministers presided by King Salman renewed their classification of Hezbollah as a “terrorist” group.

“Saudi cabinet reiterated its determination to continue the fight against the terrorist activities of Hezbollah,” tweeted the state-run Saudi Press Agency.26-10-2016-23-35-37

The move followed verbal attacks by Hezbollah leaders against Riyadh. On Sunday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah delivered a scathing critique of Saudi Arabia during a speech, claiming they support terrorists throughout the Middle East region, including ISIS.

Hezbollah-Saudi relations have severely worsened over the past year and a half as the two groups have found themselves on opposing sides of multiple conflicts. Hezbollah supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime forces in Syria and the Houthi rebels who have taken control of much of Yemen, while Saudi Arabia has supported the Syrian opposition and the Yemeni government in alliances which mirror the religious divide between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’a Hezbollah.

While Hezbollah, and Nasrallah in particular, have increased their verbal condemnations of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government has responded by increasing its suppression of the group. In March, closely following the “terrorist” designation given to Hezbollah by the Gulf states, the Arab League followed suit, offering its own blacklisting and condemnation of the group.

The move has increased concerns about a deepening Shi’a-Sunni divide in the Muslim world, with an Iran-dominated Shi’ite axis and a Saudi Arabia-dominated Sunni axis vying for regional dominance. It also increases Hezbollah’s isolation in the Middle East.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia also designated two individuals and one organization as “terrorists” for their Hezbollah and Iran links. Mohamed Al-Mohtar Falah Kallas and Hasan Hatem Jmaml Al-Din, both from Lebanon, and an Iraq and Lebanon-based organization called Glbal clan S.A.R.L. were condemned in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

“The Saudi government will continue to combat Hezbollah’s terrorist activities with all available tools and will continue to work with partners around the world to make it clear that Hezbollah’s militant and extremist activities should not be tolerated by any nation or organizations,” said the Saudi Press Agency statement.

“Together with its partners, the Kingdom will vigorously continue to expose Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal activities”, said Minister of State and Acting Minister of Culture and Information Essam Bin Saad following the cabinet session.

“As long as Hezbollah spreads instability, conducts terrorist attacks and engages in criminal and illicit activities around the world, we will continue to designate Hezbollah’s operatives, leaders and businesses and impose sanctions as a result of designation.”

The prosecution of the two individuals and the organization will be carried out under Saudi Arabia’s Law of Anti-Terrorism Crimes, its Financing Law, its Anti-Money Laundering Law, and Royal Decree A/44, which allows prosecution of state-branded “extremists” and their supporters.

Saudi Arabia also criticized Iran for its support of Hezbollah during a United Nations general assembly meeting held on Monday.

Saudi deputy ambassador to the U.N. Saad al-Saad said that Iran was playing a dangerous role as a source of sectarian strife and violence in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen by “supporting terrorist groups and providing them with weapons”.

Al-Saad also emphasized Saudi Arabia’s right to protect its own security and interests, and spoke about the fight against arms smuggling in the Middle East.

“Iran provides Hezbollah with weapons and the latter sends fighters to Yemen and Syria”, he said in a claim that was recently corroborated by several U.S. and Western diplomats.

 

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