Berlin — The European Union moved closer on Monday to sanctioning the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah when the United Kingdom announced that it filed a formal request for Hezbollah’s military wing to be labeled a terrorist organization. The British move, which today gained German support, represents a distinction without difference.
In short, Hezbollah is a monolithic terror entity. There is simply no prudent way to take a cookie-cutter approach to its so-called political and military wings. This is why the United States, Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands have listed Hezbollah’s entire apparatus as a terror entity. Separating Hezbollah into military and political wings, in fact, sparked objection from one of the few voices in Europe that strongly supports outlawing Hezbolla, British member of parliament Michael McCann, who vehemently opposed the half-hearted listing in the House of Commons in early May.
“While the last [British] government proscribed Hezbollah’s military wing, its significant role in Lebanese politics is the often cited reason for why the U.K. has not gone further and proscribed the whole organization, which even its own leader says operates under a single command. The misplaced belief that Hezbollah’s politicians are legitimate and independent from its deadly terrorism is also behind the EU’s inaction,” McCann said.
Europe being Europe, the major powers have retreated to a stance of appeasement at a moment when Hezbollah is on the ropes. The organization has suffered major combatant losses in its bloody campaign to aid Syria’s Bashar Assad; the Washington Post reported that Syrian “opposition groups say that at least 28 Hezbollah members were among 90 people killed since Sunday.”
Their lifeline from Iran is being squeezed, too: David Cohen, the U.S. undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, recently said that “the sanctions on Iran are hurting Iran’s ability to support its militias and malign activity around the world. It’s affecting their ability to support Hezbollah for instance . . .”
European powers refuse to confront the interplay between Hezbollah and its chief financial sponsor, Iran’s radical clerical regime. Hezbollah has waged a relentless war against the United States since the terror group’s creation in the early 1980s, at the same time Iran has been doing the same. In 1983, Hezbollah launched a suicide-bomb attacks against U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut, murdering 241 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers. Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq assisted in the killing of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2007. Iraq’s government permitted him — in defiance of the Obama administration’s objections — to return to Hezbollah’s base in Lebanon.
Back to Europe: The vast network of Hezbollah operations in Europe is best seen in Germany. The European Foundation for Democracy published a 2009 report titled ”Hizbullah’s Fund-raising Organization in Germany,” showing that Orphans Project Lebanon (Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V.), situated in Göttingen, is “the German branch of a Hizbullah suborganization” which “promotes suicide bombings” and aims to obliterate Israel. This Hezbollah “charity” still operates today.
Years of European inaction against Hezbollah were part of the porous counterterrorism strategy that permitted Hezbollah operatives to blow up an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, last July. That Hezbollah-Iran joint operation killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian national, and injured 32 Israelis.
The Obama administration has unique leverage over the Europeans. It should use the upcoming, unique opportunity of U.S.-EU free-trade talks and insist on the complete elimination of Hezbollah from Europe’s territories as a condition of any prospective agreement.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter: @BenWeinthal.