Austria considers ban of Hezbollah’s military wing

United Kingdom provides new information to Vienna, spearheads effort in the EU to include Hezbollah in the terror list.

July 9, 2013 22:02
3 minute read.
Hezbollah supporters take part in the ashura religious ceremony in Beirut.

Hezbollah supporters Beirut 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

BERLIN – Austria backtracked on Tuesday from its hard-line position against a ban of Hezbollah within the EU, stressing its undecided position ahead of a late July foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to reach a consensus on outlawing the Lebanese terrorist group.

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday on a mobile telephone, Isabella Pöschl, a spokeswoman for Austria’s Foreign Ministry, said: “Currently our position is neither yes or no” with respect to sanctioning Hezbollah’s military wing.

She said Austria had requested information from the United Kingdom, and experts in the Austrian Foreign Ministry were reviewing the material to “make up our mind.”

She declined to say what information the British government had sent to Vienna.

The UK is spearheading the effort among the 28 EU member countries to include Hezbollah’s military wing in the body’s terror list. Austria, the Czech Republic, Malta, Poland, Ireland and Slovakia have resisted labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Austria’s opposition to this labeling is grounded in the consequences for Lebanon’s “internal situation,” since Hezbollah plays a key role in the fragile political system, Pöschl said.

In sharp contrast to the Austrian position, Mideast commentators have argued that Hezbollah is destabilizing Lebanon and Syria by fighting in support of President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Tony Badran , a leading expert on Syria and Lebanon and fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in March on the website of the popular Lebanese news outlet NOW that “the proposition that targeting Hezbollah would negatively impact Lebanon presupposes that the group currently contributes to stability.

Such a view requires quite the suspension of disbelief.

In reality, Hezbollah has thoroughly subverted the country and its citizens in virtually every aspect.”

He added, “Left unmolested, Hezbollah not only undermines Lebanon’s security, institutions, and political system, but is also on track to compromise its foreign relations, ruin its financial system, and destroy whatever remains of its social cohesion.”

Austria has faced criticism from Israel and Middle East experts for a feeble foreign policy that fails to adhere to international pledges.

Austria announced in the spring that it would implement a phased withdrawal of its troops from the Golan Heights because of the Syrian war.

In response to Austria’s decision, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last month that the move shows why Israel cannot rely on international forces for its security.

Austria’s decision to withdraw 380 troops from the 1,000-member UN Disengagement Observer Force on the Israel-Syria border added to the volatile climate in the North.

Meanwhile, in Brussels on Tuesday, Dr. Matthew Levitt , who heads the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, delivered a presentation to the EU on the need to outlaw Hezbollah.

He wrote the Post by email: “While there are still several sticking points for a few member states, there is a very clear trend toward supporting a ban of Hezbollah’s military wing here in Brussels.”

Levitt, the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, added: “The evidence of Hezbollah’s terrorist activities easily hits the threshold of EU cp931, so discussions now surround issues related to foreign policy and implementation.”

The EU’s cp931 working group deals with counterterrorism and the listing of organizations as terror entities.

The British member of the European Parliament, Charles Tannock, widely considered a leading expert on Hezbollah and Iranian terrorism, tweeted that he attended the closed parliament hearing on the blacklisting of Hezbollah, noting that England and “most EU states” support sanctioning Hezbollah.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report. Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Related Content

August 18, 2019
'Chernobyl on Ice': Russia's floating nuclear power station draws concern


Cookie Settings