KOWET-BEIRUT – Kuwait has taken the Gulf’s escalation against Lebanon to a new level as diplomatic and media campaigns are complemented by visa restrictions that may affect Lebanese expatriates in the country.
Gulf sources do not expect such measures to stop in Kuwait and believe that the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries could also impose stricter restrictions on Lebanese communities in the region.
The sources told The Arab Weekly that Gulf governments have no plans to end the row over Lebanon’s information minister, George Kordahi’s critical remarks before sending an unequivocal message to the Lebanese officials. The fact is that “the era of accommodation is over and that the support of the Gulf will be conditioned in the future on Lebanese political positions commensurate with the fair consideration of the Gulf countries in Lebanon”.
The sources added that Kuwait in particular has more than one reason to tighten visa issuance on Lebanese, given Hezbollah’s continued interference in Kuwaiti affairs and the security concerns it causes for the country’s authorities. oil-rich Gulf. Local reports in Kuwait said security services discovered a new cell collecting money and donations and recruiting activists on behalf of the pro-Iranian Lebanese party.
The dismantling of the cell coincided with reports that the Emir of Kuwait’s amnesty bill includes a reduction in sentences for those arrested in the 2015 Abdali case involving collaboration with Iran and the Hezbollah and the possession of a huge cache of weapons on a farm near the Iraq border.
Kuwait had previously called on the Lebanese authorities to take the necessary measures to put an end to Hezbollah’s practices which “threaten the security and stability of Kuwait”, but this did not yield any results. This helped convince the Kuwaiti authorities to take yet another retaliatory measure limiting the number of visas for Lebanese nationals.
“A verbal decision has been taken to be stricter in the granting of tourist and business visas to Lebanese,” a Kuwaiti security source told AFP on Wednesday, asking not to be identified.
The source stressed that no official decision had been taken and that visas for visitors to Lebanon had not been suspended.
Kuwait, which is home to some 50,000 Lebanese, has also asked the charge d’affaires of Beirut, its top diplomat in the emirate, to leave the country.
More than 300,000 Lebanese live in the Arab Gulf States, providing an essential financial lifeline for the faltering Lebanese economy.
Lebanese diplomats are aware that any tightening by the Gulf countries of their policies on remittances will increase the difficulties for the Lebanese inside, already facing a major economic and social crisis.
Lebanon’s ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the crisis on the country’s expatriate communities.
They expressed “fears of growing repercussions on bilateral relations between Lebanon and the Gulf States and the interests of the Lebanese living in these countries,” according to a statement from the Lebanese Prime Minister’s office.
The two ambassadors stressed that “every day of delay in resolving the crisis will make it more difficult to re-establish these relations”.
The Lebanese have in the past used the support of the Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia, to mitigate the impact of their urgent crises, such as the oil or electricity crises. The influx of tourists from the Gulf has also given an economic boost to Lebanon.
Lebanese analysts say most officials in Beirut believe the current crisis will not pass easily and that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf countries want to show that they are unwilling to be lenient when they are. subjected to hostile targeting.
They add that Lebanese policymakers have clearly received Riyadh’s message, which means the kingdom and its allies will no longer continue to provide aid and investment to help a political class that serves Hezbollah’s interests.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stressed this month that “there is no point” in dealing with Lebanon in light of the “continued domination of Iranian proxies” over the Arab country, in reference to Hezbollah.
The diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia was sparked by statements by Kordahi, in which he said that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen were “defending themselves” in the face of “external aggression” from the ‘Saudi Arabia. Kordahi’s comments were made in August before he took office, but were published on October 25.
At the end of last month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait asked the heads of Lebanese diplomatic missions to leave their countries and decided to recall their ambassadors from Beirut. The United Arab Emirates also recalled their diplomats from Beirut in solidarity with Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia also announced a ban on Lebanese imports.
The kingdom is Lebanon’s third-largest export market, accounting for 6% of the country’s exports in 2020, worth around $ 217 million, according to the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce.