'Failure to blacklist Hezbollah undermines security'

London conference discusses EU failure to list Hezbollah as terrorist organization as "undermining security goals."

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorists marching with flags 370 (photo credit: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorists marching with flags 370
(photo credit: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
LONDON – The Iranian regime’s genocidal threats toward Israel and the European Union’s failure to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization shaped many of the panel discussions at a one-day conference in London last week on “Iran and the international community.”
It is a “very bad thing that Hezbollah can operate in Europe regarding fund-raising and logistics,” US Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department in the first Obama administration, said. Hezbollah’s legal status in the EU “undermines security goals,” he said.
“If you want to put a dent in Hezbollah activities, it would be a positive thing” to outlaw the Lebanese group, and an EU terror “designation would be a blow to Hezbollah’s legitimacy,” Benjamin said.
The London-based Henry Jackson Society and the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tanks hosted a series of panel discussions with a who’s who of global experts on Iranian sanctions, human rights in the Islamic Republic, and the use of military force to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
Mark Dubowitz, an authority on economic sanctions, said there is a “stark reality that Iranian nuclear physics is beating Western economic pressure.”
He urged rigorous enforcement of existing sanctions and a trade embargo that would “bring Iran’s economy to collapse.”
The goal, said Dubowitz, who is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is to break the political will of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to compel him to end his drive to weaponize his nuclear program.
Dr. Alan Mendoza, the executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, described Tehran’s rush to obtain nuclear weapons capability as the “most pressing issue of our time.”
Dr. Michael Broer, a senior nonproliferation and nuclear arms control expert at Germany’s Defense Ministry, said a nuclear-armed Iran would “set up a cascade of nuclear proliferation” in the Middle East region. A nuclear Tehran “allows Iran to pursue its aggressive policies toward its neighbors,” he warned.
Rafael Bardaji, a former special adviser to former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, cited an example of Iran’s lethal anti-Semitism: A 2001 meeting between the then-Spanish prime minister and the supreme leader of Iran.
Bardaji, who attended the meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said when Khamenei was asked what his role within the Islamic Republic is, he responded: “To set Israel on fire.”
Bardaji raised the anti-Israel ideology of Khamenei at the panel discussion on how to tackle the Iranian threat in 2013 and the policy prescriptions available.
Iran’s rhetoric about dissolving the Jewish state “is in their nature,” Bardaji said.
“As we think through the likelihood of arriving at a good negotiated solution with Iran, and the possibility of persuading and pressuring the supreme leader to abandon his nuclear weapons program, it is worth keeping this rare encounter with him by a Western democratic leader very much in mind,” commented Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the US-based Council of Foreign Relations, on his blog about Bardaji’s account of Khamenei.
Abrams spoke at the London event and noted skepticism in certain sections of the US policy- making establishment about the seriousness of the EU to tackle the Iranian threat. He cited the example of Hezbollah.
“If they [European countries] can’t even designate Hezbollah, how serious can they be taken,” he said.
During the panel discussion on “What if Sanctions Fail? Military Action vs. Containment,” John Hannah, a senior Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow and a former national security adviser to US vice president Dick Cheney, said the international community is “getting close to the end of diplomacy” but there is still time to “let coercive diplomacy play out.”
He stressed a paradoxical situation where there is the need for “the credibility of a military threat” to avoid war. Hannah said, however, that in the event that sanctions and diplomacy fail to persuade Iran, it is important to have the option of US military action, preferably coupled with a coalition of governments, to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons sites.
Richard Perle, a fellow with the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said an “interesting possibility” is to make sanctions so onerous that the Iranian people change the regime. He raised the policy prescription of “sanctions associated with regime change.”
Perle said the number of military targets that would be needed to destroy in Iran is not enormous and cast doubt on whether the Iranian population would “rally around the government” in the event of a strike on nuclear facilities, largely because the population is unhappy with the clerical leadership.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.