Editorial: EU should stand up to Hezbollah

Listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group is a minimum first step in confronting an organization that has terrorized not only the region, but EU member states.

EU building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
EU building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
On July 16, France 24 held a roundtable discussion on the topic “Has the West forgotten about Syria?” Around 5,000 people are dying each month in Syria in a conflict that has claimed more than 80,000 lives. The death tolls have only risen since Hezbollah decided to intervene fully in the conflict by committing large numbers of terrorists to fight in the Battle of Qusair on June 5. Now is the time, with Hezbollah increasingly involved in human rights abuses, for the EU to label the organization a terrorist group, thus cutting off its funding sources and ensuring that fewer Syrians die at its hands.
EU terrorism experts have been meeting in the past month on the issue of adding Hezbollah’s “military wing” to their list of terrorist organizations.
Any decision, however, must be unanimous in the 28-member block. Austria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta and Slovakia have reportedly not agreed to support the move. The EU experts met on Thursday, and the EU Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled to meet in Brussels on Monday.
UK politicians have been leading calls for the EU to finally designate at least part of the organization as terrorist. Michael McCann, a Labor MP, noted “it’s a scandal that the UK has only proscribed part of Hezbollah, giving the impression that a distinction can be drawn between Hezbollah’s terrorists and those that purport to be politicians.”
Charles Tannock, a British member of EU Parliament, said, “There are also reports that money is being raised now in EU territory and being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly Syria.”
Of particular importance are reports that France has changed its mind. As recently as 2005, French intelligence experts to US diplomats that they were unconvinced Hezbollah was a terrorist organization.
EU member states have often expressed fears that designating Hezbollah will further destabilize Lebanon. The irony of this charade is that, without the EU designating it as terrorist, the organization has not only gone on to destabilize Lebanon but also the region through its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal policies.
The day it became clear that Hezbollah fighters were walking around freely in Syria, in uniform and with their flags and military convoys, it should have set off alarm bells in Europe that the organization’s involvement was clearly at odds with EU policy, which has been to support the opposition.
Furthermore, Hezbollah agents have been arrested in Cyprus and the organization was implicated in the July 18, 2012, bus bombing in Bulgaria. In March, operative Hossam Yaacoub was convicted in Cyprus on charges of plotting to kill Israeli tourists there. As recently as a month ago, Bulgarian representatives informed the EU they had determined that a Hezbollah operative had facilitated the creation of documents connected to the Burgas bombing.
Recent reports indicate that Hezbollah fighters are operating in southern Syria as well, helping to terrorize people in Deraa province, which borders Jordan and the southern Golan Heights. Some Syrian rebels see Hezbollah’s involvement as tipping the balance in favor of the regime.
These developments are worrisome, not only for Syria’s rebel groups and Jordan, but for Israel.
After years of dithering the EU should list Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Listing only its “military wing” is a start, but there is no real difference between the wings. Nevertheless this is a minimum first step in confronting an organization that has for too long terrorized not only the region, but EU member states such as Bulgaria as well.