Hezbollah and the EU

Why won't the EU follow US, UK, and Turkey's lead and deem Hezbollah a terrorist organization?

Hezbollah Beirut 370 (photo credit: Archive)
Hezbollah Beirut 370
(photo credit: Archive)
Following an exhaustive investigation, the Bulgarian interior minister stated on February 5 that it was a reasonable to assume that the two Lebanese suspects of the July 18 suicide bombing in Bulgaria which killed 5 Israelis were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah. Forensic evidence and intelligence sources also pointed to Hezbollah's involvement in the blast.
On 18 February 2013 Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Nikolai Mladenov, was in Brussels briefing his EU counterparts about the seven month inquiry and its conclusions. In a press conference, Mladenov said: “We believe the attack that happened in Burgas last year was organised by people connected to the military wing of Hezbollah…We in Europe need to take collective measures to make sure that such attacks will never happen again on EU soil... We must send a strong message to the rest of the world, that activities like this are unacceptable, no matter where they are planned or executed.”
Far from agreeing, the EU showed apparent reluctance in responding at all.  Instead, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, resorted to dithering and equivocation.  As far as the EU is concerned, Hezbollah maintains a status akin to persona grata despite being deemed a terrorist organization by Canada, the UK, US and even Turkey. Its offences include an indictment by a UN tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, its repository of vast weapon stocks supplied by Iran, and ongoing support of President Bashar Assad’s tyrannical regime in Syria..
Hezbollah – Iran’s main proxy – has a 30 year history of terrorist activity in Lebanon and elsewhere, directed at the  entire Western world and of course the US and Israel..
In 2008, two Hezbollah operatives who underwent training in Iran attempted to pull of an attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan. . The plan was exposed when Azeri security forces stopped a car transporting the terrorists along with guns, explosives and photographs of the Israeli embassy. The two were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Another unsuccessful attempt to assassinate an Israeli consul occurred in 2011 in Istanbul, resulting in eight Turkish citizens being injured. . According to Sky News, Iran’s Quds Force Unit 400 was behind the attack.
Most recently, a man suspected planning a terrorist attack against Israeli tourists in Cyprus is currently on trial on the island. . On February 20, the suspect, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, admitted to the court that he is an active member of Hezbollah since 2007, is trained to use weapons and has acted as a courier for the organization in Turkey, France and the Netherlands.  Yaacoub gave details of meetings with his Hezbollah handler, and said that he had staked out locations in Cyprus known to be popular with Israeli tourists. He had also recorded the number plates of tour buses carrying Israelis.
Whether these developments will be sufficient in inducing the EU finally to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization is open to speculation. The suspicion is that what is holding the EU back is the fact that Hezbollah has managed to imbibe itself into the heart of the Lebanese body politic.
Lebanese history is more convoluted than most countries; following its liberatation by Free French and British troops in 1941, Lebanon was declared an independent sovereign nation with France handing over power to the first Lebanese government on  January 1, 1944.
The National Pact established the basic constitution of modern Lebanon. Political power in the country is allocated on what is known as a "confessional" system, with seats in the parliament an even split between Muslims and Christians. The top three positions in the state are allocated so that the president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, while the speaker of the parliament, is always a Shiite.
This partly explains the presence of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government.The extremist Islamist group originated within the majority Shiite block of Lebanese society. It emerged with a separate identity in the early part of the 1980s as an Iranian-sponsored movement that claimed to resistthe presence of Western and Israeli forces. Perhaps its most notorious terrorist actions were those of 23 October 1983 when the United States Marine barracks in Beirut were blown up in a suicide bombing. Just six months previously, on 18 April, the US embassy in Beirut had been subject to a suicide car bombing which killed 63 people.
Born in blood, , Hezbollah can scarcely be said to have become respectable, yet the group achieved a certain degree of acceptance within Lebanese society following Israel's withdrawal in May 2000. In the election that followed, Hezbollah formed an electoral alliance with the Amal party and took all 23 seats in South Lebanon, out of a total 128 parliamentary seats.
Since then Hezbollah has participated in Lebanon's parliamentary process. Following the elections in April 2009, Hariri constructed a 30-minister cabinet made up of five ministers nominated by President Suleiman - 15 from Hariri's coalition, and 10 from the opposition, including two members of Hezbollah. It is this semi-respectable position achieved by Hezbollah − doubtless augmented by the emphasis placed by the organization on social welfare activities among the population − which is deterring the EU from acknowledging that at its heart Hezbollah is a ruthless, terrorist organization dedicated to fundamental Islamist goals.
The writer is the author of “One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine” (2011) and writes the blog “A Mid-East Journal” (www.a-mid-east-journal.blogspot.com)


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