US senators urge the EU to outlaw Hezbollah

The US designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 1995. Key EU countries have blocked efforts to do the same.

US Congress 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Congress 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – A bipartisan group of 76 US senators sent a mid-September letter urging the EU to include Hezbollah on its terror list.
The Republican and Democratic senators wrote to Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, saying “Primarily through Iran’s Republican Guard Corps, Hezbollah has been the largest beneficiary of Iran’s support for terrorist activities, and in the past year, there has been a sharp spike in terrorist attacks planned by Iran and Hezbollah throughout the world.”
The letter – signed by veteran foreign policy experts such as John McCain (R-Arizona), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) – continued that “As Iran’s isolation grows due to increasing sanctions and the hopefully imminent fall of the Assad regime in Syria, we fear further escalation of terrorist activities by Iran and Hezbollah against Western interests to include Europe.”
The senators warned Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat who is responsible for negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear crisis, that “We believe the evidence and dangers posed by Hezbollah and Iran to all European citizens are serious enough to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. A terrorist designation from the EU would not only subject Hezbollah to further sanctions, but would also send a message to Hezbollah that Europe and the United States will not tolerate its dangerous and violent tactics.”
The US designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization in 1995. Key European countries have blocked efforts to label Hezbollah a terror entity. Germany, which has seen a rise of Hezbollah members within its borders from 900 in 2010 to a current figure of 950 in 2012, refuses to push for a terror label for the radical Islamic group. Experts also view France as recalcitrant on the issue, largely because Paris does not want to diminish its diplomatic leverage in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has de facto control over the government.
While attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers earlier this month in Cyprus, UK Foreign Minister William Hague said “I would like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah.” The UK has banned the military wing of Hezbollah but not its political organization.
In response to the current UK hybrid designation, the senators wrote in their letter, “the United States does not differentiate between Hezbollah’s political and militant wings, nor should Europe.
The EU should recognize Hezbollah for what it is – a terrorist organization – and stand with the United States against Hezbollah in all its forms.”
Holland, which is the only EU country to label Hezbollah a terror entity, urged the EU outlaw the presence of Hezbollah within its borders.
“We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hezbollah,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal at the Cyprus meeting.
Rosenthal noted that the move to ban Hezbollah would allow Europe to freeze the organization’s assets.
The letter from the US senators accused Hezbollah of waging attacks against Europeans.
“The US State Department’s Country Report on Terrorism named Hezbollah as the likely perpetrator of the 2011 attacks on UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeepers that injured six Italian soldiers, three French soldiers and six French civilians,” wrote the senators.
US and Israeli intelligence agencies attributed the July suicide bombing of a bus of full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria to a joint Iran-Hezbollah terror operation. According to the senators’ letter, “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, including the Bulgarian bus driver and five Israeli tourists. As this incident is investigated, the United States and the EU must demonstrate our common commitment to opposing terrorism wherever it emerges.”
The German government – and news outlets – has been largely mum about Hezbollah.
In late August, however, Philipp Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, wrote to The Jerusalem Post, “It is long overdue to place Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terror organizations.” Hezbollah “threatens the security of our alliance partner Israel and is involved in countless terror activities and receives protection from the Iranian regime.”
Missfelder added that “the EU should not allow any more time to elapse” regarding the ban of Hezbollah, because “an organization that agitates against our friends in Israel cannot be accepted in Europe.”
He appealed to Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou- Marcoullis, whose country holds the presidency of the 27-member EU, to take action against Hezbollah.
Kozakou-Marcoullis has argued that “There is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations” and further justified the EU refusal to blacklist Hezbollah because the group performs social service work.
Critics argued that Kozakou- Marcoullis ignored a 2005 EU parliament resolution that the legislative body “considers that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities on the part of Hezbollah and that the Council should take all necessary steps to curtail them.”