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US-Gulf Sanctions against ‘Hezbollah’ Cast Shadow over Lebanese Govt. Formation Efforts

US-Gulf Sanctions against ‘Hezbollah’ Cast Shadow over Lebanese Govt. Formation Efforts

Friday, 18 May, 2018 - 06:30
West Beirut seen from the Holiday Inn hotel in the Lebanese capital. AFP file photo
Beirut - Caroline Akoum
The recent sanctions announced by the United States and Arab Gulf countries against the Lebanese “Hezbollah” party will weigh heavily on efforts to form a new government in Lebanon. The party was expected to name ministers in the new cabinet, but such a development will lead to political and economic consequences on Lebanon as a whole.

Efforts are underway to form a new cabinet in wake of the recent parliamentary elections that saw the Iran-backed group and its allies win a majority of seats.

Wednesday’s sanctions targeted, for the first time, “Hezbollah’s” political and military wings and Lebanese officials are counting on international powers to continue on distinguishing between the party, Lebanon and its government.

“Hezbollah” had previously demanded, however, that the new cabinet take into consideration the elections results.

The party and Lebanese officials have yet to make official statements on the sanctions, but sources from the Mustaqbal Movement and Lebanese Forces agree that it is a message to “Hezbollah”, Iran and the European Union.

Ministerial sources from the Free Patriotic Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat that the formation of a new Lebanese government hinges on how the new prime minister will tackle the issue during his consultations to form the cabinet.

A government without “Hezbollah” means a government without the Amal Movement, which consequently means that neither of the two main Shiite blocs will be represented, they added.

A prime minister will be chosen after political blocs hold consultations with the president on their desired candidate. The premier-designate will then meet with the various blocs to discuss the formation of the cabinet.

Director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, Dr. Sami Nader, confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that there will be complications in forming a government, saying the sanctions are a precursor to greater decisions.

The sanctions are a response to the parliamentary elections results, he added.

“The decision not to distinguish between ‘Hezbollah’s’ military and political wings has eliminated the party’s room to maneuver on the internal and external scenes,” he explained.

“Its participation in government will lead to wider sanctions and Lebanon’s political and economic siege. The greatest blow will be dealt to its economy,” he warned.

Nader stressed that the sanctions were a message to “Hezbollah” and its opponents alike. They have also complicated the mission of the new premier, who is most likely to be current PM Saad Hariri.

Should the party chose to escalate the situation through naming another candidate, then the political and economic sanctions will be in store, he added.

The Mustaqbal sources, meanwhile, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The sanctions confirm that ‘Hezbollah’ did not achieve anything in the elections and that it is a burden on Lebanon’s economy and Arab and international relations.”

They said, however, that the party’s inclusion in the cabinet does not mean that the Gulf will sever ties with Lebanon, unless “Hezbollah” decides to escalate the situation.

“The purpose of the sanctions is to clip the party’s nails and prevent it from further bullying Lebanon,” the sources stated.

The LF sources, meanwhile, said that Lebanon has long sought the best ties with Arab and western states, which have in turn expressed their keenness on its stability, economy and security.”

“The message behind the sanctions are clear however that any Lebanese government that includes ‘Hezbollah’ will not be recognized and that it too will be targeted by sanctions,” they stressed.

They said however that “there is no international will to take this path, which would lead the country to a new unprecedented phase.”

On Wednesday, the United States, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council imposed sanctions on “Hezbollah’s” leadership over its ties to terrorism. The sanctions included its Secretary General Hassadn Nasrallah and his deputy Naim Qassem.

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