The Gulf Cooperation Council is getting pretty good at orchestrating diplomatic scrums targeting countries it (and by “it” I mean “Saudi Arabia”) deems problematic. They refined their technique on one of their own, Qatar, back in 2014 before rolling it out in earnest on Iran last month. Now Lebanon appears to be getting the same treatment:
Kuwait and Qatar have become the latest Arab Gulf countries – following Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – to call their citizens to leave Lebanon or avoid travelling there.
The moves by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states came days after Riyadh halted $4bn in aid to Lebanese security forces in response to “hostile” positions linked to Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.
Doha’s foreign ministry, in a statement on Wednesday on the official Qatar News Agency, called on citizens in Lebanon to “leave for their own safety” and said no Qatari nationals should travel there.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Kuwaiti embassy in Lebanon’s capital Beirut also said all Kuwaitis should leave “except in extreme circumstances”, and advised those who stay to exercise caution and avoid unspecified places which are not safe.
Oman is the only GCC state that hasn’t restricted travel to Lebanon. Oman generally steers clear of these outbursts, because they’re invariably about Iran, with which Oman has friendly relations. Lebanon’s immediate sin appears to be that it hasn’t joined many other Saudi
clients allies in severing its own ties with Iran in the aftermath of last month’s “spontaneous” firebombing of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. I’m sure Hezbollah’s continuing involvement in Syria, on Bashar al-Assad’s side, is also a factor.
Also at play here is the precarious state of Lebanon’s internal politics. There was some noise in December that the country’s fragmented political system might actually start functioning at a minimal level again, but nothing happened. Lebanon still doesn’t have a president, garbage is still piling up on the streets of its capital, and the country is still trying to cope with refugees from Syria and the ever-present risk of more terrorist violence. If you could make a list of the reasons why Lebanon’s government has largely ceased to function, “Saudi Arabia” and “Iran” would each be on that list–Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiʿa communities are controlled to some extent by the Saudis and Iranians, respectively, so when they’re not getting along, Lebanese politics get more dysfunctional. This could, in part, be an attempt by Riyadh to manipulate that situation.
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