The Gulf states are fixated on Iran, and their belief in a zero-sum regional game has seen them try to block whatever real or perceived advances are made by Tehran. This strategic rationale has seen them back any number of actors in the Syrian morass so long as they sought to topple the pro-Tehran Assad regime, and it has also led them to intervene in Yemen, leading a coalition of other Arab states in a campaign without a well considered strategic aim in mind. So this approach has been, to put it mildly, less than successful.
Yet recently the Gulf states have begun a quieter, more asymmetric line of operation: the squeezing of Iran's invaluable Lebanese ally, Hizbullah. Last month the Gulf Cooperation Council declared Hizbullah a terrorist organisation. The Gulf states have been quick to give weight to the declaration. In recent weeks the UAE has jailed three people accused of setting up a pro-Hizbullah group, Kuwait gave 60 Lebanese between two days and two weeks to leave the country because of alleged ties to Hizbulllah, having expelled 11 the week prior. Bahrain has also expelled some alleged Lebanese Hizbullah supporters and their families. And Saudi Arabia blacklisted several companies and firms it claimed were linked to Hizbullah.
The Gulf states have also focused attention on the Lebanese state, both in an attempt to build ill will among Lebanese for Hizbullah, and to punish an earlier refusal by the Lebanese foreign minister to join in a statement by Arab states condemning the burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. He has claimed his refusal was based on his disagreement with the text of the letter, which he said included accusations of Hizbullah interference in Bahrain. In response, several Gulf states advised their citizens not to travel to Lebanon, while the Saudis and Bahrainis told their citizens to leave the country. Riyadh added further punitive measures by cancelling $4 billion of military and security aid to Beirut.
The Lebanese state is, of course, in no position to restrict Hizbullah's actions in the way the GCC would like. So, while the targeting of Hizbullah members and entities within their midst (if indeed all the people targeted fit this definition) can be justified on security grounds, the net effect of the travel bans and cancellation of the arms agreement is to further weaken Lebanon in the midst of a refugee crisis of unparalleled severity and an ongoing security threat posed by the spillover from the conflict in Syria. Short-term punitive measures by Gulf states do nothing to promote the stability Lebanon needs.
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