The Arab league is no longer classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, a move that experts say is a big win for Iran and serves to strengthen the Iranian proxy in Lebanon.

The Arab League’s Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki made the announcement on Saturday, according to Arab media. Zaki said on Egyptian Al-Qahera News that “the member states of the League agreed that the label of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization should no longer be employed.”

The Arab league labeled the Shiite militant group a terrorist organization in 2016, backed by 22 member states with the firm support of Saudi Arabia.

Walid Phares, a Foreign Policy expert and American academic who has advised US presidential candidates, said the Iran influencers in Washington may have made the suggestion to remove the Iran-backed proxy as a terror organization to keep the status-quo in Lebanon, and prevent a looming war between Hezbollah and Israel.

The Iran influence network “may have convinced those Arab countries that for the time being, if you stop the designation, this will convince the Israelis that the international community is against any action Israelis are going to take into Lebanon,” Phares told Iran International.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah has been conducting attacks using exploding drones and low-flying missiles that, in some instances, Israel's short-range Iron Dome has struggled to intercept. Many of the recent drone attacks in the North of Israel have led to massive forest fires in the agriculture-rich dependent region.

Iran International reached out to the US State Department for comments on the Arab League's move and its possible link to Iran's influence network in Washington DC.

"We understand that the Arab League position has not changed, but refer you to the Arab League for further comment," said a spokesperson for the US State Department.

The United States, Canada and many other countries have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Phares, the author of “Iran, Imperialist Republic and US policy,” said capitalists tied to international gas companies might also benefit economically from Hezbollah's removal as a terror organization as they could sign energy deals with Lebanon for its sub-sea gas fields.

In October 2022, Israel and Lebanon signed a US-brokered maritime agreement, allowing both countries access to gas deposits, according to Reuters. That established their permanent maritime boundary and exclusive economic zones, and regulated their rights to gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Expert: terror removal benefits Iran and Hezbollah

Alex Selsky, an advisor to the Middle East Forum and former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Arab League's removal of Hezbollah from its terror list, only shows support to the Iranian government and its Lebanese proxy.

“I think everybody's surprised to see that because it's clear that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. The symbolic move of un-listing Hezbollah even the image of it benefits Tehran and hurts the West,” Selsky told Iran International.

The Arab league is made up of predominately Sunni dominated countries, like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, all of which demanded the Iran-backed proxy join the list in 2016, according to Selsky. That shift, he said, makes Hezbollah stronger.

However, Selsky believes the move could give Israel the upper hand in the ongoing conflict in the region. If Hezbollah is not a "terrorist" organization in the view of the league, Selsky said, then Israel may view Lebanon as effectively the problem if Hezbollah continues to strike Northern Israel.

“It looks to me that it's either someone wants in a very sophisticated way to bury Lebanon or it's some backing for Iran,” he said.

The Potential for full out war

The question still remains, will Lebanon be dragged into a full out war?

Israeli security expert Sarit Zehavi, told Iran International in May that usually most of Hezbollah's attacks strike in evacuated areas of Northern Israel, but recently there were more attacks on areas which are further from the border with Lebanon. It is estimated that around 60 thousand Northern Israeli residents are still displaced after October 7.

The last time Israel and Hezbollah engaged in an intense, direct war was in 2006 after the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the Iran-backed proxy. The end of that conflict was brought on the by the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, mandating the disarmament of Hezbollah, which has not been enforced since.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. At the time, Lebanon was engaged in a civil war, which lasted from 1975-1990. Experts say the militia group was part of Iran’s goal to export its 1979 Islamic Revolution around the region and the world.

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