Bulgaria blames Hezbollah for Burgas bus bombing. European consternation ensues

Burgas bus bombing

After months of investigations and inquiries, Bulgaria today announced that they have concluded that Hezbollah was behind the deadly bus bombing in Burgas last July that killed 5 Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver.

Two individuals with links to Lebanon’s terror group Hezbollah were involved in a bomb attack on a bus in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists last July, Bulgaria’s interior minister said on Tuesday.

[...]

Three people were involved in the attack, two of whom had genuine passports from Australia and Canada, Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters after Bulgaria’s national security council discussed the investigation.

“We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah,” Tsvetanov said. “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects. What can be established as a well-grounded assumption is that the two persons whose real identity has been determined belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah.”

[...]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Bulgarian probe’s findings “are clear. Hezbollah is directly responsible for the horrendous Burgas attack.”

In his statement the prime minister added: “The findings are an additional confirmation to what we already know. Hezbollah and its patron, Iran, are running a global terror campaign across borders and continents.

“The attack in Burgas was an attack on European soil against a member of the European Union. We hope the Europeans will draw the necessary conclusions about the true character of Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said.

The Americans gave a very accurate description of Hezbollah:

President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan also issued a statement, saying the US “commends the Government of Bulgaria for its professional and comprehensive investigation into the barbaric July 18, 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas.

[...]

“Bulgaria’s investigation exposes Hezballah for what it is – a terrorist group that is willing to recklessly attack innocent men, women, and children, and that poses a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world. We commend Bulgarian authorities for their determination and commitment to ensuring that Hezbollah is held to account for this act of terror on European soil. The United States will continue to provide the Bulgarian Government assistance in bringing the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice,” he said.

“Hezbollah’s dangerous and destabilizing activities – from attacking tourists in foreign countries to leader Hassan Nasrallah’s active support of Bashar al-Assad’s violent campaign against the Syrian people – threaten the safety and security of nations and citizens around the world. Bulgaria’s implication of Hezbollah underscores the importance of international cooperation in disrupting terrorist threats. We call on our European partners as well as other members of the international community to take proactive action to uncover Hizballah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks.”

The Europeans meanwhile are having a hard time coming to terms with some cognitive dissonance since they consider Hezbollah to be a social aid society:

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “The implications of the investigation need to be assessed seriously as they relate to a terrorist attack on EU soil. The EU and member states will discuss the appropriate response based on all elements identified by the investigators.”

Surprisingly the Lebanese offered their cooperation:

In response to the findings, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said his country “trusts that the Bulgarian authorities will undertake a serious evaluation of the results of the investigation and affirms that it is ready to cooperate with Bulgaria to shed light on the circumstances” of the attack.

Tehran has denied responsibility and accused Israel of plotting and carrying out the blast. Hezbollah has not publicly responded to charges by Israel and US agencies that it played a role.

The Netherlands said in August that the EU should follow the lead of the United States, which designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the 1990s, a move that would enable the EU to freeze Hezbollah’s assets in Europe.

Israel and the US deem Hezbollah a terror group and have been urging the EU to do the same for years, over the Lebanon-based militia’s proven ties to Iran and other terror groups in the Middle East, such as Hamas.

The EU’s assertion so far has been that whatever Hezbollah’s activities in the Middle East – it does not pose a threat to Europe.

Way to go Europe. “Not in my back-yard” seems to be their watch-word.

The Commentator described, in its scoop earlier today, how Hezbollah’s implicit blackmail has deterred the Bulgarians from  announcing Hezbollah’s involvement until it became impossible to deny:

The Commentator has learned that both the German and French governments have both piled pressure on the Bulgarians to “use nuanced language” in the report, for fear that Bulgaria may be the focus of future attacks if Hezbollah is openly named.

The Bulgarian government, it has been stated by leading sources, has been informed through ‘back channels’ that there will be serious repercussions from Hezbollah if it is to publically and overtly name the group. This information comes despite strong pressure from the US government to make clear that the bombing was indeed the work of the Lebanese terrorist outfit.

Regarding the Europeans’ difficulty in admitting that Hezbollah are a terrorist organization (something which ought to be clear to anyone with eyes in their head), the New York Times describes the repercussions of the Bulgarian findings on the European stance:

The European calculation all along has been that whatever its activities in the Middle East, Hezbollah does not pose a threat on the Continent. Thousands of Hezbollah members and supporters operate in Europe essentially unrestricted, raising money that is funneled back to the group in Lebanon.

Changing the designation to a terrorist entity raises the prospect of unsettling questions for Europe — how to deal with those supporters, for example — and the sort of confrontation governments have sought to avoid.

“There’s the overall fear if we’re too noisy about this, Hezbollah might strike again, and it might not be Israeli tourists this time,” said Sylke Tempel, editor in chief of the German foreign affairs magazine Internationale Politik.

The significance of their determination has put pressure on Bulgarian officials, who would like to maintain strong ties with both Israel and the United States, which call Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and European allies like France and Germany, which do not. Bulgarian officials have maintained a studied silence for more than six months since the attack.

“They have to name a name and say who is behind the attack,” said Dimitar Bechev, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “At the same time, they don’t want to go solo. Whatever they say has implications not just for Bulgaria but for the E.U. as a whole.”

[...]

A sort of modus vivendi exists where Hezbollah keeps a low profile for its fund-raising and other activities and Europeans do not crack down. In Germany alone, some 950 people have been identified as being associated with the organization as of 2011. The group has always been treated as a benign force, even if assessments of the danger it presented varied greatly.

Omid Nouripour, a Bundestag member and a Green Party spokesman on security issues, said that for years he had opposed listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. “In the situation now, with Syria, I think it’s now time to isolate Hezbollah,” Mr. Nouripour said.

But France remains the European Union country with the strongest engagement in Lebanon as well as in Syria, and with the most say in European policy toward Hezbollah, said François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

“The French, to the extent that it’s possible, try to avoid political destabilization and radicalization in Lebanon,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “The driver in France is the situation in Lebanon and the politics in Lebanon. It’s not as if France didn’t know that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.”

The Netherlands has already declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Britain lists only the group’s militant wing as a terrorist organization, distinguishing it from the political side. The United States and Israel have been the most vocal about the group’s connection to violence and ties with Iran.

“I would describe Hezbollah as the most potent terrorist organization in the world, and very disciplined,” said Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush.

If you read BICOM’s short analysis of Hezbollah and their activity in Europe, it is quite astonishing that the Europeans have managed to delude themselves about Hezbollah’s real character for so long.

Of course it is an unpleasant fact to face, but until the threat is admitted and named, it cannot be fought effectively. Hiding your head in the sand and hoping the “crocodile will eat you last” (to paraphrase Churchill)  is no way to combat terrorism.

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3 Responses to Bulgaria blames Hezbollah for Burgas bus bombing. European consternation ensues

  1. Pingback: Hezbollah’s spreading influence as a proxy for Iran | Anne's Opinions

  2. Pingback: More Middle Eastern complications | Anne's Opinions

  3. Pingback: How hard can it be to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization? | Anne's Opinions

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