Saudi Arabia ratchets up pressure on Hezbollah
London - Saudi Arabia blacklisted 12 senior Hezbollah leaders and officials for allegedly sponsoring terrorism beyond its borders. The individuals were sanctioned because of their responsibilities for operations around the Middle East as well as “entities acting as investment arms for activities of the party”, a statement by the kingdom’s Interior Ministry said.
The latest round of sanctions is based on a royal decree that targeted terrorists and their support systems and included a freeze on assets and banning Saudi citizens conducting transactions with them.
Among those on the list is Ali Mousa Daqduq al-Moussawi, a senior Hezbollah operative placed on a US terror list in 2012 for his alleged involvement in 2007 raid in Iraq that resulted in the death of five US servicemen.
Also on sanctions list is Mustafa Badreddine, a man with the same name as a Hezbollah operative currently being tried in absentia by the United Nations for the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The statement wasn’t clear if this was the same individual.
The sanctions target Hezbollah business owners and their companies, including an individual named Adham Tabaja, and his Al-Inma Group for Tourism Activities, and Hussein Ali Faour’s Car Care Centre.
Some Saudi analysts see the threat of Hezbollah to be on par with that of terrorist groups such as al- Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS). Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Center said that the Iran-allied group poses a significant threat to the kingdom and should be dealt with in the same manner as ISIS and that underestimating the group would be a mistake.
Highlighting the regional scope of the Saudi sanctions, al-Sager pointed to the case of al-Moussawi. “One of the names announced was Ali Mousa Daqduq (al-Moussawi), a key member of the Iranian terror group operating against the Iraqi people.”
Al-Sager said that despite al- Moussawi assassinating a number of Iraqi military officials, as well as US military men, he was released after his arrest by US forces by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, in order for him to travel to Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc criticised the sanctions and accused the kingdom of coordinating with the United States over a recently passed anti-Hezbollah bill.
The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 was passed in the US Senate unanimously on November 17th. Tyler Stapleton, deputy director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the legislation would classify Hezbollah as a “significant” drug trafficker and a transnational criminal organisation, This would allow international law enforcement agencies to target the terrorist group’s global financing network.
The Iran-supported Lebanese militia, which Saudi Arabia has designated as a terrorist organisation, has a long history of nefarious activities in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, including domestic offshoots of the group.
In August, a 19-year manhunt came to an end when Ahmed al- Mughassil, the main suspect in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, was apprehended by Lebanese authorities and extradited to Saudi Arabia. Mughassil, a 48-year-old Saudi national and Hezbollah al-Hejaz leader, was also found guilty in US courts of masterminding the attack that killed 19 US military personnel and wounded 500 others.
Also in August, security services in Kuwait intercepted a large arms cache and detained three individuals suspected of belonging to a Hezbollah cell, who, according to local media, were plotting to destabilise the country.
According to its Interior Ministry, Kuwaiti police found 56 rocket-propelled grenade shells and various types of ammunition at a farm on the Kuwait-Iraq border belonging to one of the suspects. The ministry also seized weapons, ammunition and explosive material in the homes of the other suspects.
In June, Saudi Arabia designated two high-ranking Hezbollah officials as terrorists, accusing the members of the Lebanese Islamist militia of spreading chaos and instability in the Middle East. At the time the kingdom identified Khalil Youssef Harb and Mohammed Qabalan, who were also designated as terrorists by the United States in 2013, for what it described as overseeing “violent operations” in the Middle East.
The Interior Ministry’s statement also vowed that Saudi Arabia would continue to fight against terrorist activities of Hezbollah by all available means and will continue to work with partners around the world to that effect.