Some Europeans are coming to understand that terrorism is at the core of the entirety of Hezbollah and is not limited to its so called “military wing.”
In January, the United Kingdom’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution urging the British government to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Members of the Parliament’s Labour Friends of Israel caucus highlighted the false distinction that the 28-nation European Union (EU), including the U.K., currently makes between the supposed military and political wings of the terror group. This policy enables the EU and U.K. to distinguish among a variety of Hezbollah officials: prosecuting and sanctioning those they see as associated primarily with the “military” component while maintaining regular diplomatic relations with the “political” wing of Hezbollah represented in Lebanon’s government. Instead, the U.K. Parliament said:
“This House believes that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation driven by an antisemitic ideology that seeks the destruction of Israel; notes that Hezbollah declares itself to be one organisation without distinguishable political or military wings; is concerned that the military wing of that organisation is proscribed, but its political wing is not; and calls on the Government to include Hezbollah in its entirety on the list of proscribed organisations.”
By way of background, the British government initially sanctioned Hezbollah’s “military wing” in 2008. The EU followed the U.K. model in 2013, following years of pressure from the United States and Israel and the 2012 Hezbollah bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed a local bus driver and five Israeli civilians, while wounding more than 30.
HEZBOLLAH CONTINUES TO ENGAGE IN TERRORIST ACTIVITIES.
While the EU’s designation of Hezbollah’s so-called military wing was a positive step, it has had no visible impact on the Iranian-backed terrorist group’s nefarious activities. Hezbollah continues to raise money, procure weapons and plot attacks across Europe. In 2015, the Cypriot government arrested Hezbollah operative Hussein Bassam Abdallah for planning an attack on Israeli interests. The police discovered 8.2 tons of ammonium nitrate, an easily accessible chemical explosive, in Abdallah’s basement. This was the second time in three years that Cypriot courts sentenced Hezbollah operatives for planning attacks against Israeli interests in Cyprus.
Hezbollah’s activities in Europe also support its global terrorist operations. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Stars Group Holding, a Lebanese consumer electronics business, for procuring sophisticated military equipment such as aerial drones from European companies. Hezbollah has recently used similar equipment in its military operations in Syria, including surveillance operations against Israel. According to U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen, “[Hezbollah is] one of the most capable, profi cient and professional terrorist organizations in the world.” While speaking at the Aspen Institute last year, Rasmussen added, “we’ve known all along that Hezbollah looks to lay infrastructure around the world, to give itself options, to develop a playbook, to give themselves an off -the-shelf capability.”
THERE IS ONLY ONE HEZBOLLAH.
A number of countries have recognized that Hezbollah as a whole is a terrorist organization. The U.S. State Department formally designated Hezbollah—in its entirety—as a terrorist organization in 1995. Canada and the Netherlands later joined in this designation. The Netherlands’ decision followed a 2004 Dutch intelligence report pointing out that “Hezbollah’s political and terrorist wings are controlled by one coordinating council.”
In the Middle East, the entire Arab League as well as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—have designated Hezbollah in its entirety. In March 2016, GCC SecretaryGeneral Abdullatif al-Zayani said Hezbollah posed a direct threat to “Arab national security” given the group’s involvement in “terrorist attacks, smuggling weapons and explosives, stirring up sedition and incitement to chaos and violence.”
Most notably, Hezbollah’s own leadership does not recognize the military-political distinction. In 2009, its Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem stated that “the same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions [i.e., terrorism] in the struggle against Israel.” Qassem reaffi rmed in 2012: “We don’t have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other.” Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah even mocked the EU’s 2013 decision to ban Hezbollah’s military wing, joking “I propose that our ministers in the next government be from the military wing of Hezbollah.”
THE WAY FORWARD.
Hezbollah is fully united in calling for violence against America and Israel. The entire group adheres to the ideology laid out in its founding manifesto, calling for terrorism against America and American interests and the eradication of Israel. To wit: “Our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated,” and “We combat [the Israeli] abomination and we shall tear out its very roots, its primary roots, which are the United States.” As Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote in January, “the group’s militants and politicians all fl y the same fl ag featuring a machine gun front and center.”
The EU’s efforts to distinguish between the non-existent political and military wings of Hezbollah have failed to produce any positive results. Hezbollah continues to engage in terrorist activities as it grows its political influence in Lebanon and elsewhere. The EU must seize on the findings of the recent non-binding resolution in the UK—or else Hezbollah will continue to operate with ease within Britain and the rest of the EU—and it will continue to threaten U.S. interests.
In October 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Res. 359, “urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members.” Echoing this sentiment, President Trump in January said, “ [Our allies] should designate Hezbollah—in its entirety—as a terrorist organization.” Congress and the administration must continue to encourage the EU to fully designate Hezbollah and help to curb this terrorist body.
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