Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim men from the Iranian-backed group Kataib Hezbollah wave the party's flags as they walk along a street painted in the colours of the Israeli flag during a parade marking the annual Quds Day.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A US Congress hearing on Wednesday spotlighted Hezbollah’s role in an international narcotic trafficking operation that enables the Lebanese Shi’ite group to advance its terrorist goals. Europe remains fertile ground for Hezbollah operations and terrorism finance.
Given Hezbollah’s role in the ongoing slaughter of Syrian civilians and a thwarted attack on Israelis in Cyprus, is it time for Europe to ban all Hezbollah activity in the EU? Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said at the hearing: “An intricate network of money couriers who collect and transport millions of euros in drug proceeds from Europe to the Middle East.
The currency is then paid in Colombia to drug traffickers using the Hawala disbursement system. A large portion of the drug proceeds was found to transit through Lebanon, and a significant percentage of these proceeds is benefiting terrorist organizations, namely Hezbollah.”
Ottolenghi testified on “The Enemy in Our Backyard: Examining Terror Funds from South America.” This writer is a fellow at FDD.
Israel and Europe were hit by a major terrorist attack in Bulgaria in July 2012.
Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in the Black Sea resort of Burgas, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver. Europe merely outlawed Hezbollah’s so-called “military” wing within the EU in 2013. Leading terrorism experts classify Hezbollah as a monolithic terrorist entity, and Hezbollah declares its organization to be unitary.
The US, Canada and the Netherlands designate Hezbollah’s entire organization as a terrorist group.
Europe’s limp sanctioning of Hezbollah in 2013 did not prevent Hezbollah’s attempt to bomb Israelis in EU-member Cyprus in 2015. Hussein Bassam Abdallah, a Canadian-Lebanese man and Hezbollah agent, was found with 8.2 tons of explosives and sentenced to six years in prison. In a Daily Beast article in 2015, Matthew Levitt, the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote, “It was the second time in three years that a Cypriot court has sentenced a Hezbollah operative to prison for plotting an attack in Cyprus. But this latest plot is different, in part because it reveals that the EU’s warnings to Hezbollah not to operate on European soil have not dissuaded the group at all.”
The sums Hezbollah has raised in Europe to finance terrorism have reached extraordinary levels. And one feels that counter-terrorism authorities in the EU are just scratching the surface.
German custom authorities revealed in April that in the past two years, Hezbollah has been involved in at least $75 million in money laundering operations in Europe. According to German media reports, Hezbollah collected nearly $2million a week and purchased luxury autos and jewelry. The US Treasury and European authorities believe the profits of the laundry money network benefited the Islamist organization.
Either Hezbollah is broadening the scope of its activities, or more exhaustive investigations are leading to greater transparency. The US Drug Enforcement Agency said seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, were involved in investigations of the organization, The Washington Times reported.
According to Germany’s domestic intelligence report for 2014 – the most current study available – Hezbollah has 950 active members in the Federal Republic. The actual number is believed to be higher. A massive pro-Hezbollah and pro-Iranian regime demonstration (Al-Quds Day) is slated for July 2 in Berlin.
To stop Hezbollah’s terrorism across the globe, particularly in Syria where the group has played an important role in the deaths of nearly 500,000 people, the EU will have to reconsider prescribing the Lebanese movement in its entirety.