At a meeting of the Arab League chaired by Egypt, the League voted unanimously on March 11th to declare the Shia Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah a terrorist group. Only Lebanon and Iraq have refused to adopt these declarations. Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil explained later on social media that this Hezbollah’s political role in Lebanon motivated the decision.
The vote came on the heels of an Arab foreign minister conference to discuss the state of the Middle East, and a recent Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, which also declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.
This marks a turning point in relations amongst actors in the Middle East. Middle Eastern nations have never considered the revolutionary Shia political and paramilitary movement a terrorist group until now, motivated partly because of The League’s staunchly anti-Israel policies. These have included military harassment of Israel and Israelis soldiers in the early 2000’s that, as Al-Monitor points out, helped lead to Israel’s withdrawal of troops from Lebanon.
However, Hezbollah also heavily supports Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. Iran, who provides much of Hezbollah’s training and funding, has also stood alongside al-Assad’s regime. Iran’s ties to Hezbollah has severely damaged its image amongst Sunni countries in the region, especially with Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Saudis recently ended weapons contracts with Lebanon to punish their toleration of Hezbollah’s hold on power, and to hopefully exert influence against Hezbollah within Lebanon.