Lebanese Politicians fear for Lebanese in Gulf after Nasrallah speech

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Lebanese Politicians fear for Lebanese in Gulf after Nasrallah speech
The Daily Star/Apr. 20, 2015

 BEIRUT: Criticism of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s latest anti-Saudi Arabia tirade poured in over the weekend, with many saying his remarks put the interests of Lebanese living in the Gulf at risk.  Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi launched a scathing attack against the party, saying Nasrallah should be “ashamed” of his attacks on Riyadh, “which has supported [Lebanon’s] state institutions and has not paid money to [any particular] side or sect and has not created militias.”  Rifi described Hezbollah as a “mere tool” of Iran that “sacrifices itself and its people for the sake of a failing project.”  “We are facing a regional plot that wrongly believes it can control the Arab world and unfortunately a Lebanese group is being used as the tool to that end,” Rifi said during a rally in Tripoli. “Hezbollah is turning Lebanon into an operations room to spread Iranian hegemony.”  Rifi said Lebanese-Saudi brotherhood ought to be safeguarded. “We reject any infraction of those ties.”
In a fiery speech Friday, Nasrallah blamed Saudi Arabia for the spread of extremist ideology in the Arab world and once again condemned Riyadh’s strikes on Yemen.

 Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt also criticized the “foolish” remarks made by Nasrallah against Saudi Arabia and reiterated his support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.  “The foolish tone of Sayyed Nasrallah is not beneficial,” Jumblatt said in comments published by Al-Mustaqbal newspaper Sunday. “We should rather return to calm and to the GCC initiative that King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz [al-Saud] is insisting on as a political solution framework in Yemen.”  The PSP leader said both Iran and Hezbollah were shocked by the Saudi decision to launch the military campaign against the Houthis, which explained the reaction against it. “What’s with Nasrallah?” Jumblatt wondered, highlighting the possible negative consequences of Nasrallah’s speech.  “Where does Sayyed Nasrallah wish to take Lebanon and the Lebanese through his tense speeches against Saudi Arabia?” Jumblatt asked. “Has he taken into consideration the consequences of his words on the lives of around 500,000 [Lebanese] in Saudi Arabia?”  The Druze leader, who had announced support for the Saudi-led “Decisive Storm” military action, expressed his suspicion over Hezbollah’s verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia.  He suggested that the purpose could be to provoke Saudi authorities to commit an act against all Lebanese, in reference to the possible targeting of Lebanese expatriates in the Gulf country.  “The Saudi king and the wise administration leading Saudi Arabia are too aware and astute to fall in the trap of Hezbollah, and Iran behind it,” Jumblatt asserted. Jumblatt reiterated his full support for the Saudi action, saying the war was first declared by Iran when it funded and supported the Houthi rebels against the “elected legitimate authority” in Yemen.  “Saudi Arabia found its national interests suddenly in the range of ballistic missiles erected in Yemen with the ability to reach many Saudi cities,” he said. “Decisive Storm is a legitimate right to self-defense, we support it.”

 Even Hezbollah’s close allies distanced themselves from Nasrallah’s remarks, with Free Patriotic Movement official Alain Aoun announcing that his group’s alliance with Hezbollah does not automatically entail that the FPM shares the party’s views on Yemen.  “We don’t have the same considerations as Hezbollah regarding Yemen that leads us to share the same views as the party,” Aoun told Al-Jadeed TV. “Our alliance with Hezbollah is a purely political one that does not extend beyond Lebanon’s borders.”  Aoun hoped that tensions between Hezbollah and Gulf states would not reflect on all the Lebanese communities there.  “We count on the wise reaction of Gulf officials,” the Baabda MP said. “Any tensions between Gulf states and a certain Lebanese group should reflect on ties with that group in particular and not on Lebanese communities as a whole who have nothing to do with those differences.”

 Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan also highlighted the detrimental repercussions that Nasrallah’s words could generate on Lebanese communities living and working in the Gulf.  “Nasrallah’s remarks harm the interests of Lebanese working in the Gulf,” Adwan said in remarks to be published Monday.

In March, the UAE decided to deport 70 Lebanese individuals. It was the third time in six years that a Gulf nation has taken such a measure. In 2009, dozens of Lebanese Shiites who had lived in the UAE for years were expelled on suspicion of having links with Hezbollah.

 Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Sunday Lebanon could plunge in chaos if political powers in Lebanon bet on competing foreign powers and bring regional conflicts into the country.  “We can aspire as Lebanese to play roles that are bigger than Lebanon in terms of final mission,” Bassil said. “But we do not have the right to bid on [foreign] powers and attract conflicts that are greater than Lebanon and which Lebanon cannot handle.”  Speaking in Akkar as part of his tour of the northern Lebanese district, the FPM official warned that any such attempts to import regional conflicts would spread chaos and ruin Lebanon.  “If a group, party or sect still wants to try this after the failure of all past experiences, we would be subjecting our people and our country to an existential threat,” he said.  Conversely, Hezbollah officials and MPs reiterated over the weekend Nasrallah’s stance that divergence over the situation in Yemen ought not to impede internal dialogue.

 MP Ali Fayyad said during a rally in the southern village of Mais al-Jabal that despite differences Hezbollah wants to preserve stability, backs pursuing dialogue with the Future Movement and was in favor of revitalizing state institutions.  “We want to preserve stability in Lebanon and we want dialogue to continue to serve the mutual interests of the Lebanese, and we want to revitalize state institutions and fight [takfiri] Islamists,” Fayyad said. “Despite deep differences and diametrically opposed stances there is a general interest to export rather than import disagreements.”