WASHINGTON – The US State Department indicated Tuesday that it expected the EU
to finally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, following an
intensive US lobbying campaign and suspected Hezbollah plots on European
“We’ve been engaging with our partners in Europe and we are
cautiously optimistic – at last – about the prospects for an EU designation of
the group,” Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for
counterterrorism, said during an address at the Brookings
Benjamin, speaking later to The Jerusalem Post, didn’t give
a specific date when he anticipated the designation to be made, but suggested
the Europeans will have to “think hard about things in the next few
The US and Israel have long pressed the EU to include the
Lebanese group on its terror list, and recently US officials have publicly been
making the case that that designation would help with enforcement efforts
against the organization and its criminal activities.
Benjamin told the
Post that the US has also been sharing information with European counterparts on
Hezbollah’s increased activities in their region.
The US and Israel have
accused Hezbollah of being behind a bombing that killed Israeli tourists in
Bulgaria in July and a disrupted plot against Israelis in Cyprus less than two
This month, the Bulgarian government announced it has made
major advances in its investigation of the bombing and would likely be
presenting findings at an EU meeting in January.
Clear Hezbollah ties to
the attack could be a significant factor in the EU determination on whether to
label Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
“Obviously if the Europeans
feel that the proof is decisive then they’ll have to confront the fact that
Hezbollah carried out an attack in Europe,” Benjamin said.
speaking ahead of his departure from the State Department, told Brookings that
overall the appeal of extremist groups such as al-Qaida is
“There are clearly indications that the al-Qaida message
continues to wane in popularity,” he asserted.
He said that many of the
new governments in the Middle East are also contributing to eroding the
capabilities of this and similar groups.
“These governments increasingly
show the will to tackle the terror threat,” he said, pointing to the attack on
the US outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in September that left four American
diplomats dead as an act that awoke many to the internal threat posed by terror
Benjamin also assessed that the citizens of these countries were
focused on bettering themselves rather than on taking down others.
populations that have historically produced lots of the extremists, these people
aren’t interested in violent extremism but in building better lives for their
families and their communities within the international system,” he
But he added that despite these positive developments, “This is not
a reason to relax.”