Iran-backed Hezbollah militia's terror attacks in many countries in the Middle East, mercenaries in Syria, political pressures in Lebanon have emboldened it to attempt to destabilize Kuwait.
The 14-member Abdali terror cell, charged with stockpiling large quantities of weaponry in Kuwait and receiving training from Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), disappeared in mid-July.
This case involves dimensions and risks that pose a threat to Kuwait security, sovereignty and stability, as well as to its unity and territorial integrity.
For this reason, implications of this case are enormous. It threatens the Kuwaiti-Lebanese relations. In the worst-case scenario, it can snowball into a Gulf crisis as Lebanon can face the specter of an economic blockade and diplomatic boycott by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, impacting it is already ailing economy, according to observers.
They noted that Beirut's delay in handling Kuwait demands can strain the ties between the two countries.
Countering terrorism is currently a top priority for Gulf countries, they further stated.
They pointed out that is why these countries will not sit idly by watching Lebanon's negative attitude towards Hezbollah role in destabilizing Kuwait.
Gulf countries can urgent take measures to force the Lebanese government to meet the Kuwaiti demands, they added.
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Al al-Qinai has condemned Hezbollah involvement in the terrorist cell that has been busted in the Gulf emirate.
Kuwait has protested to Lebanon over the training of the cell members by Hezbollah, which has ministers in the Lebanese government.
It called on Lebanon to take "the necessary measures to curb these disgraceful practices" by Hezbollah as it is a partner in the government, ambassador al-Qinai said.
However, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that he did not incite Kuwaitis to topple the regime.
This is farcical talk and groundless accusations, he noted, adding that he always urged greater cooperation with Kuwait.
Analysts said that Nasrallah language is conciliatory and reflects the magnitude of pressure expected to be put on the Shiite militia regionally and internationally.
Political elite reaction
The political elite in Lebanon has expresses concern over the potential rift between the two Arab countries. For example, Lebanese MP Ghazi al-Aridi called for adopting a unified stance towards this crisis, saying that measures to be taken in this regard will be through diplomatic channels.
We will witness major changes in the region, Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said last week.
He noted that Lebanon may face a political, Arab and western blockade because of Hezbollah's actions.
Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Tuesday underscored the important and historic relationship between Lebanon and Kuwait, as the Hezbollah linked Abdali cell threaten ties, according to The Daily Star.
Berri's comments came after some officials suggested that the Lebanese government send a delegation to Kuwait, in order to reaffirm good relations between both countries.
Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry sent Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry a letter requesting the Lebanese government to act in accordance with the Kuwaiti judiciary's decision connecting Hezbollah to the Abdali cell.
Moreover, Lebanon’s Mustaqbal Movement condemned on Monday Hezbollah’s involvement in the terrorist al-Abdali cell that was discovered in Kuwait in 2015.
After holding talks with Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdulaal al-Qinai, a Mustaqbal delegation warned that the group’s connection to the cell could harm Beirut’s ties with Kuwait and Gulf countries.
The delegation was headed by former Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and included MPs Atef Majdalani, Amin Wehbe and Ahmed Fatfat.
Saniora urged after the meeting with the ambassador the Lebanese government to “seriously and immediately remedy the situation to avoid a deterioration in ties between Lebanon and Kuwait," according to ASharq al-Awsat.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri will travel to Kuwait over the weekend in a bid to improve relations with the Gulf state after a significant terror cell with links to Hezbollah was discovered, a political source told The Daily Star on Friday.
Effect of strained relations
The fallout from the terror cell case can be translated into a potential boycott by Kuwait and other GCC countries. Trade relations between Lebanon and Kuwait can be downsized or even severed.
The election of Lebanese President Michel Aoun in October 2016 after almost two and a half years of a presidential vacancy, and the subsequent formation of a unity government, have resuscitated the political process in Lebanon.
Nonetheless, the protracted Syrian conflict is exacerbating the country’s vulnerabilities and remains an impediment to the return to potential economic growth, according to a World Bank report.
For the fifth year, Lebanon remains the largest host (on a per capita basis) for displaced Syrians, which has significantly strained already weak public finances in a situation of limited international assistance.
The boost to confidence generated from the resumption of the political process in combination with easing of tensions with the GCC following President Aoun’s visit to the region in January 2017 have raised hopes of growth.
However, these hopes can evaporate if Gulf countries adopt a tough stance against Lebanon.
Although more stable domestic politics should help the economy, the outlook is clouded by endemic budget deficits and chronic unemployment as economic activity remains weak. It is expected that Lebanon's GDP will grow 2.1% in 2017 and 2.6% in 2018.
Exports in Lebanon increased to $239.69 million in May from $235.38 million in April of 2017, according to trading economics website.
Lebanon mainly exports precious stones, metals, electrical equipment, chemical products, food and beverages and paper. Lebanon’s main exports partners are South Africa,
Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Belgium and Egypt.