The call to brand Hezbollah

To suggest in any way that Hezbollah’s terrorist activities are entirely disassociated from the violent ideology that supports it, is entirely false and intellectually bankrupt.

By RAMAN GHAVAMI
August 26, 2019 21:45
3 minute read.
The call to brand Hezbollah

LEBANON’S HEZBOLLAH leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally marking Jerusalem Day in Maroun Al-Ras village, near the border with Israel.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The news that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is actively considering labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization should be welcomed across the civilized world. Momentum is finally gathering behind this movement, as governments belatedly recognize the pernicious and malign threat this organization poses. Previously, they have avoided such measures due to the so-called, entirely illusionary distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings. As Iran’s proxy-in-chief, we must use all tools at our disposal to cut off their funding and inhibit their ability to operate.

Iran has long sought to destabilize its neighbors and perceived enemies through unconventional means. Lacking the resources of “the Great Satan” in the United States, it has sought to project its power by funding, supplying and training ruthless and violent groups who can disrupt and destabilize without requiring the force of a highly developed, well trained military. Hezbollah has become the standard bearer for this approach, which has also been extended to Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen.

For a variety of political reasons, including a concerted lobbying effort by Islamists and apologists for extremism, Western governments have been reluctant to brand Hezbollah, in its entirety, as terrorists. The United Kingdom has long held off on such a move, with then home secretary Sajid Javid finally announcing full proscription earlier this year. But the terrorist group’s destabilizing and destructive effect has been felt for years, with its virulent and violent hatred of Jews and its spreading of potent antisemitic tropes a well-known aspect of the group’s work since inception.

In its infancy, Hezbollah targeted Europeans in the Middle East, attacking French military bases and diplomats across the region. It has been a vehicle through which Iran can attack it’s enemies across the globe without the culpability of direct involvement. The bomb factory discovered in London in 2015 is a testament to how this organization seeks to terrorize the populations and societies of countries well beyond the borders of the Middle East, under the direction of its Tehran paymasters.

To brand the military wing alone as terrorists, while overlooking the political wing, is to study only the poison and ignore the source.

To suggest in any way that Hezbollah’s terrorist activities are entirely disassociated from the violent ideology that supports it, is entirely false and intellectually bankrupt. This is essentially what those nations who have failed to designate both terror organizations have done, and prevents our ability to effectively combat their violent ideology.

Furthermore, it threatens to lend Iran’s war by proxy a greater degree of acceptability, by failing to call out the organization for what it is. As long as Hezbollah’s political organization is seen as a legitimate actor, then Tehran will continue to encourage its destructive methods, just as the Islamic Republic has done with the Houthis in Yemen, who have been emboldened by the air of misplaced legitimacy bestowed on them by some international actors.

This approach is having a significant impact on some of the world’s most unstable hot spots. The organization’s presence in Venezuela, for example, which helps fund much of its activities, is exacerbating the already desperate situation the people of that country find themselves in under the brutal rule of Nicholas Maduro.

In order to combat a malign force, you first have to recognize it for what it is. The European Union and others who have yet to proscribe Hezbollah as terrorists are failing to face up to reality and ignoring arguably Iran’s greatest threat to global stability.

A coherent global strategy to combat the influence and activities of extremists and terrorists needs to recognize those who are first and foremost. As G7 leaders gather in Biarritz this week, they should be reminded to follow Brazil’s lead and brand Hezbollah the terrorists that they so evidently are.

Raman Ghavami is an Iranian Middle East analyst based in Edinburgh and the Middle East. He has worked as a consultant and adviser for various organizations across the Middle East and Europe such as EU, MDM and KKC. He is currently working for a consultancy firm based in the UK focusing on insurgency and counter-insurgency. Ghavami holds an MA in International Relations.


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