US official urges EU to name Hezbollah 'terrorists'

Senior White House terrorism advisor Brennan says EU omission makes it harder to combat Lebanese group's activities.

Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON/BERLIN – The White House’s senior terrorism adviser slammed the European Union on Friday for not designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, saying that the omission made it harder to combat the Lebanese group’s activities.
John Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s assistant for counter-terrorism, urged the EU and its member countries to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. He noted that Ireland, where he was delivering his remarks, was among those countries that had not yet done so.
“Failure to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens,” Brennan declared, saying it complicates law enforcement efforts because of the problems invoking terror charges against Hezbollah suspects.
“We call upon our European allies and partners – including the EU – to join us, not only in recognizing Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal activities, but in condemning and disrupting those activities,” Brennan said.
He added that, like the US, European countries must hold Iran and Syria accountable for their sponsorship of Hezbollah.
Brennan said that without greater international recognition and action against Hezbollah’s terrorism, “the group will continue to operate with impunity and it will be able to raise funds that enable its terrorist activity.”
He called on the international community to assume a “more proactive posture” against Hezbollah and to work with the United States to uncover its infrastructure and disrupt its networks.
Brennan pointed to some positive steps taken by European countries, notably the UK’s designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist entity, as well as efforts many other states have taken to derail Hezbollah’s criminal activity, which is used to finance its operations.
But, he stressed, “this is simply not enough.”
Last week in Brussels, Dr. Matthew Levitt, a top authority on Hezbollah’s global operations, urged key officials and diplomats to place Hezbollah on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.
Levitt, a senior fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that “the time has never been as good as now” to outlaw Hezbollah, largely recognized as a proxy for Iran, because the terrorist group is “undermining security in Lebanon and Syria.”
In the telephone interview, he stressed evidence of Hezbollah’s current activity in the EU, including the “standing trial of a European Hezbollah guy in Cyprus” who holds a Swedish passport.
In early July, the Cypriot authorities arrested in Limassol port a man of Lebanese descent who possessed a Swedish passport and was tracking the movements of Israeli tourists on the island. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attributed at the time the foiled attack to a joint Iran-Hezbollah operation.
In the same month, a suicide bomber, widely believed by Israel and American intelligence officials to be a Hezbollah operative, killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in an attack on a bus full of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian seaside resort town of Burgas .
Israeli intelligence officials documented increased telephone activity between Lebanon and Bulgaria shortly before the terrorism attack in Burgas.
Asked about the interplay between Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Levitt told the Post that “Hezbollah and al-Quds are in bed together” and are mounting “a shadow war against Israel and the West.” The al-Quds force of the IRGC is an elite unit designed to spread Tehran’s Islamic philosophy and launch terror operations abroad. Levitt stated that “there is now an opportunity and some Europeans are saying, ‘Let’s do this’” in regards to designating Hezbollah as a terror group.
Levitt cited the growth of anti-Hezbollah sentiment over the years within the EU, including the Netherlands’s labeling of Hezbollah as a terror entity and the United Kingdom’s ruling to outlaw Hezbollah’s military wing.
He also said that the US Treasury Department had enhanced its pressure in September by imposing financial sanctions against the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, for providing support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Levitt stated that there comes a point where it is necessary to take a “principled position” and rhetorically asked what else Hezbollah would have to do in order for it to be recognized as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah, which was founded in 1982, is also widely believed to be behind a number of bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s, including the attacks against the US Embassy and its military barracks in 1983, which resulted in the murder of 258 Americans and 58 French paratroopers. It also launched attacks in France and Argentina, including the bombing at Buenos Aires’s Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building that killed 85 people in 1994.