EU to ban Hezbullah?Really big.
Austria appears to be the first EU country to acknowledge that that the 27- member body has begun a process to designate the Lebanese Shi’ite group as a terrorist organization.
Spokesman Alexander Schallenberg, a seasoned Austrian diplomat, couched the process with caveats. “A possible listing of the entire Hezbollah within the EU as a terror organization must consider various political aspects,” he wrote.
He noted that Hezbollah is not only represented in Lebanon’s parliament but is part of its government, with two ministers in the cabinet.
“A listing of the Hezbollah could, therefore, have immediate effects on the security of the country and the stability of the government,” Schallenberg continued.
He noted that Lebanon President Michel Suleiman seeks to create a “national dialogue” in his country, with the goal of, for example, integrating Hezbollah’s fighters and weapons into the state’s security forces. Schallenberg said that the EU has up until now clearly supported Suleiman’s efforts.
He stressed that it is important that the EU find a “joint position, especially in light of the situation in Syria.”
News organizations reported that Hezbollah’s militias joined forces with Syria’s regime to suppress the Syrian rebellion.
The division among EU countries revolves around whether to designate the entire Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, or just parts of it.
Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium Foreign Ministry, told the Post on Thursday: “We believe that it could make sense, instead of qualifying Hezbollah as a whole, to isolate armed subgroups, or individuals. This method has proven its merits, and deserves a try.”
Critics of this approach (treating armed wings separately from political branches) point to a statement from Hezbollah’s No. 2 leader, Naim Qassem, who said in 2009: “Hezbollah has a single leadership,” and “All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.”
Qassem added, “The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”
The United Kingdom classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, but recognizes its political wing as a legitimate political party. The Netherlands designated Hezbollah as whole to be a terrorist group. Both Dutch and British foreign ministers have urged their EU counterparts to place Hezbollah on the EU terror list.According to one of my contacts in Germany, if all four of the stronger members of the EU (Britain, France, Germany and Italy) agree to designate Hezbullah as a terrorist organization, the other countries like Belgium will be forced to go along. As of now, the only holdout among those four is France.
Here's a JPost editorial on the subject.
Yet besides the Netherlands, which recognized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization a few years ago, and Britain, which since 2001 makes a distinction between Hezbollah’s political wing – which the UK does not consider a terrorist organization – and its military wing – which the UK does consider terrorist – no other European country has followed the US’s – and Canada’s – lead.Hezbullah currently raises funds and procures weapons freely in most of Europe. It's time to put a stop to it.
As a result, Hezbollah is free to operate in Europe raising money, recruiting supporters and plotting terrorist attacks.
Of all places, it is Germany that has become a center for Hezbollah’s rabidly anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist activities, with 950 members and supporters last year, up from 900 in 2010, according to an annual report put out by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
In August 2009, for instance, Alexander Ritzmann, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, found that a German charity for Lebanese orphans was really a front organization raising money for Hezbollah suicide bombers. Dozens of other similar “charities” continue to operate freely on European soil.
And in many cases donations to these charities are tax deductible, which means Germany and other European states are subsidizing a terrorist organization.
Ritzmann and others also suspect that the Hezbollah maintains trained military operatives throughout Europe who act as “sleeper cells” that can become active when called upon.
A European blacklist would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on Hezbollah. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, admitted that such a ban “would dry up the sources of finance” and “end moral, political and material support” for the terrorist organization.
In contrast, refraining from issuing such a ban would allow the Hezbollah to continue to operate freely on European soil. Just last month, White House counter-terrorism chief John O. Brennan said that European failure to join the US in designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization is undermining international counter-terrorism efforts. “Let me be clear,” Brennan said in a speech in Dublin, European resistance “makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens.”
Its about time Europe takes seriously the threat that Hezbollah represents.