By Ayman Jamali
TUNIS (AA) – Several Tunisian political parties and syndicates have condemned this week’s decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Council of Arab Interior Ministers to designate Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement a “terrorist” group.
In a Thursday statement, the Tunisian General Labor Union voiced its “rejection” of the decision, describing the move as “submission to Zionist blackmail and a blow against the [anti-Israel] resistance”.
The union went on to urge Tunisia’s Interior Ministry not comply with the decision, which, he said, threatened to entangle the country in “issues that do not serve its interests”.
On Wednesday, the GCC formally designated Hezbollah a “terrorist” organization.
The six-nation council — comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman — went on to describe the Shia Muslim group’s recent actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq as a “threat to Arab national security”.
On the same day, the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, meeting in Tunisia for its 33rd session, decried what it described as Hezbollah’s “dangerous actions”, which, it said, served to “destabilize security and social harmony in some Arab states”.
The council, too, described the Lebanese militant group as a “terrorist organization”.
Mohamed al-Fadel Mahfouz, head of the Tunisian Lawyers Syndicate, criticized the Tunisian government’s support for the council’s position, which, he said, “does not reflect the values of the Tunisian people or their support for national resistance”.
The Popular Front, a coalition of leftist parties in Tunisia’s parliament, along with the People’s Movement Party, also condemned the government’s support for the council’s position on Hezbollah.
In a joint statement, three Tunisian civil society organizations — the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic rights, the Committee for the Respect of Human Rights, and Vigilance for Democracy and a Civil State — likewise denounced the decision by the Arab interior ministers, saying it “only serves the Gulf regimes that are trying to divide the region along sectarian [i.e., Sunni vs. Shia] lines”.
Hezbollah itself has described the GCC’s decision to designate it as a “terrorist group” as “reckless and hostile”.
In a Thursday statement, Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc in Lebanon held Saudi Arabia responsible for the move.
Earlier the same day, Yemen’s Shia Houthi militant group also denounced the GCC decision.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies accuse Hezbollah — Lebanon’s most powerful militant force — of serving as a proxy for Iran and hijacking Lebanese policy-making.
Hezbollah, for its part, denounces Saudi military intervention in Yemen, where Riyadh is leading a military campaign against the Houthis, which in 2014 overran much of the country.
Saudi Arabia also accuses the Houthis of serving Iranian interests.
Last month, Riyadh cancelled a promised $3-billion grant to the Lebanese army for the purchase of French arms and a $1-billion grant to the country’s internal security forces — a move backed by the GCC.
Shortly afterwards, the GCC — in a veiled reference to Iran — voiced its “deep regret” that Lebanese policy had become “hostage to the interests of external regional powers”.
Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states have gone so far as to warn their citizens against traveling to Lebanon, calling on their nationals living in the country to leave.
[Hizbullah Flag By yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany/Creative Commons]