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May 31, 2018 No.
7498

Saudi Press Decries Hizbullah Gains In Lebanese Elections, Welcomes Imposition Of New Sanctions On Hizbullah, Saying: Lebanon Has Surrendered Itself To A Terror Organization; Hizbullah In Response: Saudi Arabia Is The Real Source Of Terror

Lebanon's May 6, 2018 parliamentary election – held nine years after the previous election and under a new electoral law, which, according to many, benefited Hizbullah – resulted in an electoral achievement for this organization and its allies, who gained about 70 out of 128 seats including 26 of the 27 parliamentary seats reserved for Shi'ites. Voting turnout was low, only 49%, which is also claimed to have helped Hizbullah.    

Ten days after the election, on May 16, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the six Gulf members of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC)[1] announced the imposition of sanctions on ten Hizbullah senior leaders, including its secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy Na'im Qassem, and on four Hizbullah-affiliated organizations.[2] The sanctions include the freezing of the ten individuals' assets in the TFTC states and a ban on maintaining contacts with them. A Saudi statement clarifying the reasons for the sanctions said: "Saudi Arabia and its partners in the FTCT will continue acting to end the influence of Hizbullah and Iran, which destabilizes the region, by targeting [Hizbullah] leaders... Hizbullah is a global terror organization and there is no difference between the leaders of its political and military branches... Hizbullah and its patron, Iran, are prolonging the humanitarian crisis in Syria, fanning the flames of violence in Iraq and Yemen, placing Lebanon and its people in danger, and undermining [stability] in the entire Middle East."[3]

Articles in the Saudi press welcomed the sanctions and discussed the threat posed by Hizbullah and Iran to Saudi Arabia and the region. Some lamented Hizbullah's electoral gains, claiming that the organization had hijacked the election by force and by means of the new electoral law that had been "tailored" to its needs with the silent consent of the other parties. Some articles also complained about the low voter turnout, saying that this had enabled Hizbullah to gain more power. Others warned that the election results would entitle other countries to boycott Lebanon or even cut off aid to it.

Hizbullah officials and its affiliated media claimed in response that the sanctions were a joint U.S.-Gulf reaction to the organization's electoral win, and were aimed at undermining the establishment of a government incorporating Hizbullah, or at preventing Hizbullah from being assigned senior ministerial portfolios, by threatening a boycott on Lebanon. Hizbullah stressed that it and its officials have no bank accounts that would be impacted by these sanctions, and that the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia are the true sources of terror that should top the world's terror lists. The pro-Hizbullah daily Al-Akhbar called the sanctions a gross interference in Lebanon's affairs that merits an appropriate response on the part of Lebanon. In addition, Hizbullah officials accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in the elections by forming electoral lists and buying votes, and of forming a parliamentary bloc to oppose the resistance [i.e., Hizbullah]. They also claimed that Saudi Arabia is leading a policy of normalization with Israel that threatens Lebanon and Palestine.


May 26 Cartoon in Saudi daily Makkah: U.S. cuts off  "the Iranian funding" to "Iran's proxies in the region"

This report reviews the reactions in the Saudi press to Hizbullah's electoral gains and to the imposition of sanctions on it, as well as Hizbullah's reactions to the sanctions.

Saudi Press Welcomes Anti-Hizbullah Sanctions

As sated, articles in the Saudi press welcomed the imposition of the sanctions on Hizbullah officials, calling them an appropriate response to the threat posed by Hizbullah and Iran to Saudi Arabia and the region at large.

'Okaz Editorial: The Sanctions Will Cut Off Iranian Funding To Hizbullah; Resistance To Israel Is Just A Slogan To Cover Up Terror, Blackmail

The May 19 editorial of the 'Okaz daily explained that the sanctions were aimed at cutting off the Iranian funding to Hizbullah, and criticized the organization for using the slogan of fighting Israel to justify its continued existence and its promotion of Iran's interests. The editorial said: "The new sanctions imposed on May 16, 2018 by Saudi Arabia, along with the U.S. and [other] member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center, on senior commanders of the Lebanese Hizbullah, chief of them Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy Na'im Qassem..., were meant to cut off the flow of Iranian funds to Nasrallah's militias. Whenever these militias feel the noose tightening around their necks, they brandish the false slogans of resisting the Israeli occupation as justification for their continued existence... It used this slogan to conceal the terror and blackmail it was employing in Lebanon before it moved its operations out of the country to harm the majority of Arab countries in service of Iranian agendas... Today we must do whatever it takes to eliminate this strife and the terror of Nasrallah's militias."[4]

May 18 issue of 'Okaz describes the sanctions as "the isolation of Nasrallah, a leader doomed to spend his life in hiding"


Front page article about the sanctions in Al-Riyadh's May 17 issue

Al-Yawm Editorial: Saudi Arabia Will Continue To Strike With An Iron Fist Anyone Harming Its Security And The Peace Of The Region

The May 18 editorial of the Saudi daily Al-Yawm was likewise devoted to the sanctions and to the determination of Saudi Arabia and its allies to fight terror and to ensure the security of the kingdom and the region. It said: "[The sanctions] reaffirm the determination of Saudi Arabia and its partners to confront the phenomenon of terror and the heinous operations carried out by the terrorist Hizbullah along with the devils of the Iranian leadership in an attempt to destabilize the region and deliver a death blow to our security...  These elements, that break the law and are hostile to the sovereignty and independence of the countries of the region and the world, have – with Hizbullah's help and the unreserved support of the Iranian regime –fanned the flames of wars, conflicts and violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, in an open attempt to expose various countries to catastrophes and spread in them a discourse of hatred and sectarianism in order to transform them into burning hotspots of crises, riots and unrest...

"There is decisive proof that those who are involved with Hizbullah and the blood-soaked Iranian regime are responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks, dispatching foreign military forces to defend Hizbullah's interests, committing political, military, cultural and social terror, and extending logistical advice, services and assistance to Hizbullah in order to fund its political and financial activity... and extending logistical assistance, advice and services to Hizbullah.

"Saudi Arabia will continue to strike these elements with an iron fist, as well as those behind them, in order to defend its security, its stability and its sovereignty and in order to defend the region along with its partners, with the aim of preventing wars, crises and the spreading of a discourse of hate within its camp, which always yearns for peace and opposes all forms of terror, and which strives along with all the countries of the world to stop [terror] and break the strength of terrorists everywhere."[5]


The results of the Lebanese elections cement the love affair between Hizbullah and Iran at Lebanon's expense (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, May 18, 2018)

Articles In Saudi Press: The Lebanese People Has Allowed Itself To Be Hijacked By A Terrorist Organization Loyal To Non-Lebanese Elements

Following the publication of the election results and before the announcement of the new sanctions on Hizbullah, the Saudi press attacked Hizbullah and its activity, stating that the organization had taken over the parliament by force and by means of the new electoral law, which serves its needs. Criticism was also leveled at other Lebanese elements that had made this possible by passing the law, and at Lebanese citizens who had chosen not to vote or had voted for Hizbullah or its allies. Some warned that world countries may now boycott Hizbullah or even cut aid to Lebanon, because the Lebanese state no longer exists.

Senior Saudi Journalist: Lebanon Must Be Boycotted, As Nazi Germany Was

In a May 14 column in the 'Okaz daily, senior Saudi journalist Hussein Shobokshi wrote: "The thuggish sectarian actions carried out in the heart of Beirut  by the mercenaries and hooligans of the Hizbullah terror organization[6] were simply a tangible reflection of Lebanon's future political situation. A nominal, virtual president makes an alliance with the prime minister, but both are threatened by the weapons of a terror organization that is headed by a gang leader and whose primary loyalty is to the sectarian [Supreme] Leader of Iran. That is the painful truth, [put] simply and honestly.

"The dirty money [earned] through selling arms and drugs and laundering money served Hizbullah as a means to buy loyalty. Another [means used] by its thugs was issuing threats against [other] candidates and elected representatives. This was not an election, it was a show of force by [a bunch of] hooligans...

"Lebanon continues to slide into a terrible abyss. Once they used to call it the Switzerland of the East, the Paris of the Mashreq and the Venice of the Middle East. Nothing remains [of those days] except nostalgia. Today Lebanon is a stronghold of terrorist militias, extremist leaders, banners of death and gangs of criminals.

"The Lebanese people has allowed itself to be hijacked by a criminal terrorist organization loyal to a non-Lebanese figure [Khamenei]. It allowed this organization, which has been convicted of terror in over 15 Arab countries, to become part of its political body. But why should the Arabs accept this humiliating reality? Lebanon should be treated the way Nazi Germany was treated. That is, it should be politically ostracized as punishment for its political choices ([for] that is the penalty imposed by the international community  on countries that elect Nazi leaders into their governments).

"Lebanon accepted an organization that Arab countries and the world have designated as a blatant terrorist organization and which has been convicted of a series of terrorist actions. Lebanon accepted it as a political partner, which is an act of flagrant political insolence that tramples international law and must not be accepted in silence... Lebanon is headed towards complete occupation by this this terror organization, Hizbullah, as part of which it will take control [of the state] and all its institutions...

"Nobody should maintain ties with a country that is content to have Hizbullah on its political stage. The sights seen after the election results [became known]... clearly indicate that Lebanon is on the brink of a period of bloody political assassinations, aimed at eliminating certain names and faces from the political [arena] for good. [These figures] were used to shape the present [political] scene, but the next scene requires boldness and insolence of a different order.

"Sadly, Lebanon is on the brink of more bloodshed, but ultimately, it is the one that chose this fate."[7]


Hizbullah gained its electoral achievement by force (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2018)

'Okaz Article: Lebanon No Longer Exists, Only A Militia Pretending To Be Lebanese

'Okaz columnist Hani Al-Zahiri wrote under the title "Lebanon Has Officially Sold Its Soul to the Devil": "The elections results are not surprising. In fact, they are completely expected in light of the new electoral law that was tailored specifically to the needs of Hizbullah, which is Iran's arm – or, more precisely, Khamenei's shoe – in the Arab world. This means that, due to the passivity of the [Lebanese] majority, the Lebanese [people] have been officially forced into the dark Iranian tunnel, and have surrendered their state and their future to the MPs of the master's shoe [i.e., Hizbullah]... The unrest that broke out immediately after the election, and the incitement by Hizbullah-affiliated groups in the heart of Beirut, may be the opening shot for [internal] chaos and conflicts among the Lebanese that will end the period of calm in the country until further notice.

"But the important point is that all the superpowers are now entitled to make no distinction between the terrorist Hizbullah and the Lebanese government, since they are now officially the one and the same. This is [apparently] to the satisfaction of the Lebanese, 49% of whom came to the polling stations to hold a funeral for their Arabism and for the sovereignty of their state, and to declare Lebanon a hungry Iranian province ruled by the bikers, crooks and dope pushers of Al-Harik [a neighborhood in the Dahiya, Hizbullah's stronghold in Beirut].

"Several days ago Morocco severed its relations with Iran due to Hizbullah's support for the Saharan rebels [the Polisario]. Today it is also entitled to sever relations with Lebanon [itself], which is rolling over for the terrorist Hizbullah. In fact, all the countries that boycotted Iran [even] before Morocco did so are entitled to boycott its new branch on the Mediterranean, and to impose an economic and military embargo on it, and press the international community to stop aid to Lebanon, for it no longer really exists. All that is left of it is a gang wearing the uniform of the state to camouflage [its true identity]...

"The Lebanese, who have lost their state due to their own passivity, are bound to regret it, but at that stage regret will not help them. Tomorrow or the day after, they will scream for the Arab countries and the international community to save them from the fate they have brought upon themselves – because Iran, which is now toying with them, will leave them destitute and run away the minute things get dangerous..."[8]


Hizbullah carries Lebanon away from "Arabism" and towards Iran (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, May 14, 2018)


"The Lebanese elections" unleash Hizbullah hooliganism (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, May 9, 2018)

Hizbullah In Response To The Sanctions: U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia Are The True Source Of Terror

Hizbullah officials and its affiliated media also responded to the new sanctions, connecting them to the election results. The sanctions were presented as a U.S.-Gulf effort to keep Hizbullah from taking part in the Lebanese government, and the responses ranged from dismissal of the sanctions as a measure that would have no impact to calls for an appropriate response to them. Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah took the former stance, saying that the sanctions would have no effect on the organization, and that the resistance could not be defeated by sanctions or economic boycott. Saudi Arabia was accused of interfering in the elections and of pushing to form a parliamentary bloc to oppose the resistance. The organization also claimed that, if there are real terror lists, then it is the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that should top them, since they are the true source of terror.

Hassan Nasrallah: The Resistance Cannot Be Defeated With Sanctions And By Cutting Off Its Funding

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah devoted a large portion of his May 25, 2018 speech (marking the anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon) to the issue of the sanctions. He called them an attempt to pressure and demoralize Hizbullah that was bound to fail, and said that the Lebanese government has a duty to help Lebanese citizens who are harmed by the sanctions. He said: "New terror lists have been issued, specifically mentioning myself and my comrades. In contrast to what many assess, this has no financial or material impact [on us], because we have no funds to deposit in banks and no capital, and no involvement in financial transactions or trade...

"If someone wants to contact us or speak with us, [he will be told that] 'they are a bunch of terrorists who have been placed on American and Gulf terror lists.' [But] you must be careful and aware that this is part of a psychological demoralizing and pressure [campaign]. Today some of the comrades who have been placed on terror lists, especially those of the Gulf, are prevented from making the pilgrimage [to Mecca]. That is one of the results... Some people have been harmed, especially businessmen who have been placed on the terror lists and their funds have been seized...  The Lebanese state and government is responsible for these Lebanese [citizens] who have been placed on the terror list... The Lebanese resistance is not terror...

"The main goal [of the sanctions] is to cut off sources of funding, or, as they call it, 'dry up the funding sources' of Hizbullah and of the resistance in Lebanon and the region... Iran is being consistently pressured as the main source of [this] funding. That is a badge of honor for Iran... They [the Americans] want it to be a weak country without missiles and without nuclear abilities for peaceful purposes... [But] it is impossible to defeat the resistance by means of terror lists, sanctions, economic siege or by drying up its funding sources."[9] 


Hassan Nasrallah delivering his May 25 speech (almanar.com.lb, May 25, 2018)

Hizbullah Officials: U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia Should Top The Terror Lists

Hizbullah Central Committee member Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said at a memorial for a Hizbullah fighter: "Just as Saudi Arabia interfered in the parliamentary elections [themselves], after the elections it continues to interfere in the establishment of the government to an unprecedented extent. [Before the elections] it interfered in the submission of candidates, the forming of lists and the organizational affairs of Lebanese parties, and [also interfered by] buying votes, and now it is involved in the formation of a parliamentary bloc to confront the opposition in order to besiege, weaken and exhaust it. [Furthermore,] Saudi Arabia's policy of normalizing relations with Israel is a real threat to Lebanon and Palestine. After the Palestinians, the Lebanese people are [bound to be] the main victims of the Deal of the Century, especially since this deal is a threat to Lebanon's demographic, political and military survival."[10] 

Hizbullah Executive Committee member Sheikh 'Ali Da'moush said in a May 18 Friday sermon: "After [Hizbullah's opponents] lost the election, they are once again trying to blacken the image of the resistance and its leaders and commanders by placing them on terror lists. But if there are any real terror lists featuring real terrorists, then the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia are the ones that should top them, because they are the sources, creators and bases of terror. They are the ones who committed and are still committing the most heinous crimes against humanity and against the children of Palestine, Yemen, Syria and other [countries]. The fact that some Gulf states have joined the American-Israeli caravan of hostility to the resistance in the region and in Lebanon reveals that they have betrayed the peoples of the region and the Palestinian cause, and also reveals their cowed submission to their American master. These are temporary, unstable regimes crushed under the American arrogance, and their resentment and wretchedness cause them to fail time and time again."[11]

Al-Akhbar: The Sanctions Are A Response To The Election Results, Aimed At Keeping Hizbullah Out Of Government

The pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar wrote on May 17 that the sanctions were an American-Gulf response to Hizbullah's electoral win: "The American-Saudi decision to place the members of Hizbullah's Shura Council, chief of them Nasrallah, on the terror list is [simply] their first response to the results of the Lebanese parliamentary election. The names on the terror list are not news. The news is the timing of [the list's] publication. The decision [to impose sanctions] is a message to all those trying to form a government, that the period of grace is over and that now the tendency [must be] to confront Hizbullah, not cooperate with it."[12]

An Al-Akhbar article published two days later said: "Our country is buckling under the pressure [triggered by] the results of the parliamentary elections as part of Saudi Arabia's desire to storm back into Lebanon armed with American sanctions on the leaders of Hizbullah. All signs indicate that there will be difficulties in forming a government, as well as [efforts] to create a strained atmosphere in order to undermine the electoral win of the resistance. The minute the election results became known, Saudi Arabia pounced on Lebanon. [First it] removed from the Al-Mustaqbal faction some people who opposed it. This was followed by diplomatic measures. For example, Walid Al-Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador [to Lebanon], paid visits to Lebanese figures to extend [Ramadan] greetings precisely at this sensitive moment of initial preparations for the formation of a government. All this [happened] concurrently with the decision of the U.S. and the Gulf states to impose new sanctions on Hizbullah and add it to terror lists...

"Some spread the idea that Hizbullah should not be represented in the next government by Hizbullah members but rather by figures close to [the organization], and that they [too] should not be given major portfolios. But these [ideas] remained wishful thinking. Al-Akhbar has been told that Hizbullah will be represented in the government by organization members whose political identity is unmistakable, and will act to be assigned major portfolios. We also obtained information that Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri will engage French President Macron in [efforts to] ease the American pressure on [Al-Hariri] during the establishment of the government, especially with respect to the inclusion of Hizbullah."[13]


Al-Akhbar May 17 report titled "U.S. and Saudi Sanctions on Hizbullah Ahead of the Struggle for Forming the Government"       

A May 18 article in the paper said: "The sanctions will not affect Hizbullah since its leaders have no private [bank] accounts that will be affected by them. Lebanon can handle the sanctions, and the [only] question is how Al-Hariri will handle the U.S. and Saudi pressures on Hizbullah when he comes to form a government. The Americans and Saudis know full well that Lebanon is able to adapt to these sanctions."[14] Another article said: "The decision of the Gulf Cooperation Countries [to impose the sanctions] is a dangerous precedent and [an act of] gross interference in Lebanon's internal affairs that requires an appropriate response by the Lebanese authorities." [15]

 

[1] The center, founded in May 2017 following U.S. President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, includes the U.S. and six Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

[2] Treasury.gov, May 16, 2018.

[3] Alarabiya.net, May 16, 2018.

[4] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 18, 2018.

[5] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), May 18, 2018.

[6] After the election, armed supporters of Hizbullah and Amal took to the streets on motorbikes, fired shots in the air and hung Hizbullah and Amal flags on the statue of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, which stands at the site of his assassination.  Al-Mudun (Lebanon), May 7, 2018; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 8, 2018. 

[7] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 14, 2018.

[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 9, 2018.

[9] Alahednews.com.lb, May 25, 2018.

[10] Alahednews.com.lb, May 19, 2018.

[11] Alahednews.com.lb, May 19, 2018.

[12] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 17, 2018.

[13] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 19, 2018.

[14] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 18, 2018.

[15] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 19, 2018.