5 février 2023
Non classé

Arab League criticizes Hezbollah for attacks

Saudi Arabia, supported by Jordan, Egypt, several Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority, chastised Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts.”

They acted at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, “These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.”

It is nearly unheard of for Arab officials to chastise an Arab group engaged in conflict with Israel, especially as images of destruction at the hands of Israeli warplanes are beamed into Arab living rooms.

But the willingness of those governments to defy public opinion in their own countries underscores a shift that has been prompted by the growing influence of Iran and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and across the region. The way some officials see it, Arab analysts said, Israel is the devil they know, but Iran is the devil that could win.

“There is a school of thought, led by Saudi Arabia, that believes that Hezbollah is a source of trouble, a protégé of Iran, but also a political instrument in the hands of Iran,” said Adnan Abu Odeh, a sociologist in Jordan. “This school says we should not play into the hands of Iran, which has its own agenda, by sympathizing or supporting Hezbollah fighting against the Israelis.”

Hanna Siniora, a Palestinian analyst with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, noted with approval on the group’s Web site on Sunday the Arab leaders’ opposition to Hezbollah.

“For the first time ever, open criticism was heard from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan against the unilateral actions carried by radical organizations especially Hezbollah of Lebanon,” Siniora wrote.

The willingness of the governments to openly defy Arab public opinion, which has raged against Israel’s actions in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, underscores the readjustment of risks Arab leaders believe they face.

“Who’s benefiting?” asked a senior official of one of the Arab countries critical of Hezbollah, speaking anonymously because he is not authorized to do so publicly. “Definitely not the Arabs or the peace process. But definitely the Iranians are.”

There may be no material proof of Iran’s involvement in the conflict, he added, but all indications point to an Iranian role.

Arab leaders have long been wary of Iran, a non-Arab Muslim country. But with Iran exercising increased influence in Iraq and stirring the emotions of Arab and Muslim masses frustrated about the occupation of Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the U.S. role in the region, fear of Iranian influence has increased.

“You have Hezbollah, a Shiite minority, controlled by Iran, and the Iranians are embarrassing the hell out of the Arab governments,” said Riad Kahwaji, managing director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. “The peace process has collapsed, the Palestinians are being killed and nothing is being done for them. And here comes Hezbollah, which is actually scoring hits against Israel.”

From its birth in 1982, Hezbollah has relied on Iranian support and arms, in addition to logistical support from Syria.

Israel has accused Iran of providing Hezbollah with more sophisticated weaponry and has said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have trained guerrillas in Lebanon. The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Hamidreza Assefi, brushed off those accusations on Sunday, saying Iran offered Lebanon and Syria only “spiritual and humanitarian support.”

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