Europe has officially declared Hezbollah to be schizophrenic. That is the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from their decision – finally – to ban Hezbollah. But only its “military wing”. (Emphases are mine).
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the EU’s decision on Monday – some 15 years in the making – to put the military wing of Hezbollah on its list of terror organizations.
The decision to place Hezbollah’s military wing – but not its political one – on the blacklist came at a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers.
In addition to having a militia with thousands of well-equipped, trained fighters, the organization is also a political party that is part of the Lebanese government.
Israeli officials said that rather than try to press the EU to outlaw Hezbollah’s political wing as well, Israel will be concentrating on ensuring that the decision is implemented.
The move could have far-reaching implications regarding Hezbollah’s ability to raise funds; intelligence cooperation between the EU and countries that recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group, such as the US and Israel; and EU countries’ abilities to monitor the group’s activities inside Europe. It will also allow EU governments to freeze any assets Hezbollah’s military wing has in Europe.
Netanyahu said that he hoped the decision would now lead to real steps in Europe against the group, and stated that in Israel’s view, Hezbollah was one, indivisible organization.
The prime minister, who last week spoke with a number of European leaders to urge them to blacklist Hezbollah, said that Israel has for years made huge efforts to explain to the Europeans that Hezbollah was an Iranian terrorist proxy operating throughout the world.
It seems that the final straw for Europe came when Hezbollah overstepped its mark and in its arrogance (see the Commentator for more) carried out a terrorist attack on European soil:
The EU’s decision came just after the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed.
In addition, Netanyahu said, thousands of Hezbollah fighters are carrying out war crimes in Syria on a daily basis and taking part in the slaughter in the war-torn country.
Israeli officials said that despite Israel’s intensive efforts over the years to get Hezbollah blacklisted, what tipped the scales inside the EU was Hezbollah’s massive involvement in the Syrian civil war.
“This was not done as a favor to Israel,” one official said.
To soothe concerns by some EU governments that this would harm relations with Lebanon, the EU ministers agreed to make a statement pledging to continue dialogue with all political groups.
Funny that. The Europeans had no problems not soothing Israel’s concerns until now.
“We also agreed that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of assistance from the European Union and its member states will not be affected,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the decisions “still ignores the evidence, including statements from Hezbollah’s own leadership, that Hezbollah is not a two-winged organization neatly divided between political and military arms.”
Avigdor Liberman, the head of the Knesset’s Foreign and Defense Committee, was more critical, however, saying that the EU – by listing only the military wing of Hezbollah on the terrorist list – was “as usual” only going “half the way” and making a decision that was “not enough.”
Liberman’s comparison was almost Churchillian in its heavy sarcasm:
“The military and political wings of Hezbollah are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “To present it as if part of the organization is extreme, and part is moderate, is like the question whether a cannibal can be vegetarian.”
In practice, the designation leaves Hezbollah with a great deal of freedom to operate in Europe. The Tehran-backed Shiite group has repeatedly tried to explain that it does not separate its armed operations from its political projects. As Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim Mussawi told Spiegel Online, “Hezbollah is a single large organization, we have no wings that are separate from one another.” He added that “What’s being said in Brussels doesn’t exist for us.”
… But European governments resisted, led by France and Germany, citing fear of reprisal by Hezbollah and the importance of maintaining dialogue with all of Lebanon’s political factions. That the holdouts finally caved is thanks mostly to Hezbollah’s overreach. The group’s admitted assistance to Bashar Assad has brought the Syrian war spilling over into Lebanon, alarming the EU into action.
At best the designation will damage Hezbollah’s reputation in Europe, […] Meanwhile, many of Hezbollah’s operatives, fund-raisers and money-launderers with cash or accounts in Europe will still be able to hide behind the EU’s distinction without a difference. In drawing a line that Hezbollah itself doesn’t recognize, the EU has lent credibility to the idea that there’s a good Hezbollah and a bad one. As Hezbollah itself insists, there’s really just the one.
Benjamin Weinthal and Claudia Rosett in their Foreign Policy article “a terrorist by any other name” remind us that the UN should follow suit and outlaw Hezbollah:
Between Europe and the United States, which outlawed Hezbollah in 1995, it is clear that the international community is tightening the noose around the Lebanese Islamists. But there is still one organization that has remained conspicuously silent about this international threat: the United Nations.The global body has thus far limited itself to doling out ineffective wrist slaps and euphemisms in addressing Hezbollah’s global terrorist reach. In a typical example, the U.N. Security Council on July 10 called for “all Lebanese parties” to refrain from involvement in the Syrian crisis — a bland reference to Hezbollah’s murderous role. (According to Reuters, the reference to Hezbollah was watered down due to objections from Russia.)
While the United Nations has a raft of counterterrorism bodies and resolutions, it has yet to come up with a viable definition of terrorism — leaving individual states free to collaborate with any groups not specifically targeted by the international body. But when the United Nations wants to crack down on a specific group, it has shown the ability to do so: The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on al Qaeda, for instance, with a series of resolutions dating back to the late 1990s. In a similar vein, the Security Council has the authority, if its members are willing, to target Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Shiite group could also be shoehorned in under the existing U.N. sanctions resolutions targeting the party’s patron, Iran. […] Reeling off a list of places where Hezbollah-affiliated individuals or commercial operations had been targeted by the Treasury Department — from Lebanon to Latin America to Africa — Glaser stressed, “the real power behind Hezbollah lies in Tehran.”
… Hezbollah is no mere parochial threat. Since it was created in the early 1980s as a Lebanese offshoot of Iran’s Islamic revolution, its networks, fund-raising rackets, terrorist plots, and killings have long been global — earning it the nickname in Washington, “the A-team of terrorism.”
Hezbollah’s bloody trail stretches back three decades and reaches from the Middle East, to Africa, to Latin America. The party cut its teeth with the 1983 U.S. embassy and Marine barracks bombings in Beirut, and then the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. It has also been implicated in terrorist attacks on the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, as well as the horrific 2005 bombing in Beirut that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. In Nigeria, the arrest of three dual Lebanese-Nigerian nationals armed with everything from land mines to anti-tank rocket launchers — enough weaponry “to sustain a civil war,” according to the public prosecutor — prompted a member of the country’s security services to label Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization.
The Burgas bus bombing was the latest example of Hezbollah’s terrorist bona fides — and also its global reach. The planning and execution of the attack straddled four continents. It was conducted in Europe and masterminded from the group’s base in Lebanon, but the Bulgarian investigation found that the plot was led by a cell that included citizens of Australia and Canada.
Hezbollah makes no secret of its anti-Semitic aims. Just weeks before the lethal attacks in Burgas, Cypriot authorities arrested Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Lebanese-Swedish citizen, for plotting to kill Israelis and Jews on the island. In March, a Cypriot court sentenced him to four years in prison, though the court chose to describe his acts as criminal, rather than terrorist. Yaacoub offered police officials a neat summary of Hezbollah’s global reach, telling them that Hezbollah “was just collecting information about the Jews. And that is what my organization does everywhere in the world.”
Slapping a U.N. terror designation on Hezbollah will be no easy task: Washington would have to make a big push for the United Nations to seriously consider acting. But nobody can know whether it’s possible — so far, the United States has barely raised the issue. It has limited itself to the occasional grumble, such as Acting Permanent Representative Rosemary DiCarlo’s comment at the Security Council on July 23 that “Iranian and Hezbollah-backed fighters and advisers” have supported the Syrian regime’s assault on its own people. U.S. diplomats have been unwilling to comment publicly on this omission, and a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment for this article.
The United States may be reluctant to campaign for sanctions on Hezbollah for fear that such a bid would not get past veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China. Witness China’s continued business dealings with Iran, Russia’s backroom dilution of the recent condemnation alluding to Hezbollah, as well as both nations’ refusal to allow U.N. sanctions on Syria.
But the free world invests billions of dollars in the United Nations every year — not to mention its credibility in the name of promoting international peace and security. Should the U.N. Security Council prove simply too craven or morally crooked to take actions against Hezbollah, there would still be benefits to airing the case against the “Party of God.” This is surely a debate worth having at the United Nations — and soon.
I hope no one is holding their breath in anticipation of this utopian event. If Israel is not in the dock, don’t count on anyone voting in favour.