Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League wherein it managed to persuade most of the organization’s 22 member states to condemn Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, as a "terrorist organization.
Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. After the death of Abbas al-Musawi in 1992, the group has been headed by Hassan Nasrallah, its Secretary-General. The group is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with its military/security wing by the United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union. It is a political, military and social organization that wields considerable power in Lebanon. Hezbollah emerged with the help of Iran during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s. It roots can be traced back to the Shia Islamic revival in Lebanon in the 1960s and '70s.
The Arab League is a regional organization of Arab countries in and around North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Arabia. It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Kingdom of Egypt, Kingdom of Iraq, Transjordan (renamed Jordan in 1949), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a member on 5 May 1945. Currently, the League has 22 members, but Syria's participation has been suspended since November 2011, as a consequence of government repression during the Syrian Civil War.
Recently, there have been many developments in the Middle East region. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh. In the recent days, Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens to leave Lebanon. This has escalated a regional standoff with Iran centred on the fragile state, which it claims is being run by Tehran’s proxy, Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League wherein it managed to persuade most of the organization’s 22 member states to condemn Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, as a "terrorist organization. In addition, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have soared since Hariri's shock resignation on November 4, citing Iran's "grip" on his country and threats to his life.
"We want to hold everyone responsible," Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said during the deliberations. "We want to hold countries where Hezbollah is a partner in government responsible, specifically Lebanon." Al-Khalifa claimed that Lebanon "is subject to full control by this terrorist group."
Speaking at an emergency session of the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, said Iran was aiming "to destabilise and fuel sectarian rift" in the region "and to drive a wedge between ourselves and our people". "This swift response reflects the gravity of the situation our countries are facing ... as a result of the ballistic missiles violations of Iran and the blunt interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries," said al-Jubeir.
American University of Beirut professor Rami Khouri told CNN that "Hezbollah is certainly the single most powerful political group in Lebanon, where governance requires complex consensus building in which Hezbollah is clearly preeminent. But it is not in total control."
However, members at the meeting made it clear that they were not declaring war against Iran presently. “We are not declaring war on Iran at this stage,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said. “We have not taken a decision to ask the Security Council to meet, but we are just briefing the council and maybe the next stage would be for us to meet and call for a Security Council meeting and submit a draft Arab resolution [against Iran].”
Our assessment is that Saudi Arabia has initiated a seismic shift in Middle East geopolitics. The meeting was called by the Kingdom in a bid to consolidate its power in the region. Even though many of the members of the Arab League condemned the actions of Iran and Hezbollah, it is also clear that member states may not see eye-to-eye with Saudi Arabia on how best to tackle the threat posed by Iran.