Germany and Hezbollah

It turns out that the Germans are wary of being too hard on the Iranians and their allies.

A view of the German Bundestag (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of the German Bundestag
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On January 12, when President Donald Trump last extended US sanctions relief on Iran, he delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal.
They must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he will refuse to extend US sanctions relief again on May 12, which would likely precipitate the unraveling of the entire nuclear accord.
Since Trump’s January ultimatum, the US State Department has held several meetings with European leaders. The goal is to keep the nuclear agreement in place while at the same time tightening sanctions against Iran.
Reuters reported last Friday that Britain, France and Germany, the three European signatories, have proposed fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
But not all of the Europeans share America’s concerns about the destructively destabilizing role played by Tehran and its proxies in the region.
It turns out that the Germans are wary of being too hard on the Iranians and their allies. As The Jerusalem Post’s European Correspondent Benjamin Weinthal reported on Thursday, Berlin has rejected a US demand to designate the entirety of Hezbollah, both its military and political wings, as a terrorist organization, banned from Europe.
Britain and France are, apparently, open to the idea.
The Germans insist on making a distinction between the two wings, which also happens to be EU policy. Only grudgingly did the EU agree in July 2013 to label the military arm a terrorist organization, after Hezbollah blew up a bus in Bulgaria and killed five Israeli tourists and their local driver.
Sources quoted by Weinthal said that Germany rejected the American demand because Hezbollah “is linked to Israel-Palestinian peace talks.” The sources also said Germany considers the Trump administration too pro-Israel.
What does this mean?
We could easily reach the conclusion that the German government believes Hezbollah’s political arm deserves to be spared the label of “terrorist” because it is involved in a legitimate struggle against Israel.
After all, it was Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s previous foreign minister, who claimed Israel was an “apartheid regime.” And if Hezbollah is fighting such a regime, can it really be considered a terrorist organization?
Then again, Germany’s new foreign minister Heiko Maas has made it clear that he has parted ways with his predecessor’s anti-Israel rhetoric, saying he rejects labeling the Jewish state an “apartheid regime.”
“Foreign Minister Maas has never made such a statement and will also never do so in the future,” a ministry spokeswoman told the Post’s Weinthal.
So perhaps Berlin has some other reason for insisting on distinguishing between Hezbollah’s political and military arms.
Maybe Germany and other European countries that maintain the distinction think that blackballing Hezbollah’s political arm, considered a legitimate political party inside Lebanon, would hurt relations with the Lebanese. Maybe they think it would hurt relations with the tens of thousands of Muslims in Europe who view Hezbollah as a legitimate political movement.
Yet, Germany must know that Tehran provides support to Hezbollah in its efforts to pose a military threat to Israel. With Iranian backing, Hezbollah has stockpiled thousands of rockets and missiles in south Lebanon that are directed at strategic and civilian targets in Israel. It is only a matter of time before Hezbollah drags Lebanon into another war with Israel.
And Hezbollah has a history of carrying out terrorist attacks abroad against mostly Israeli and Jewish, but also American, targets, from Argentina and Panama to Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. It is also involved in drug trafficking to raise money for arms.
That’s why the US, Israel, Canada and the Arab League make no distinction between the military and political arms of Hezbollah and recognize the terrorist nature of both.
As the May 12 deadline approaches, the Europeans and the Americans will have to decide whether they can agree on a revamped Iran nuclear deal.
German recognition of Hezbollah’s political arm as a terrorist organization is not absolutely essential to the broader goal of preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. But we wonder why the Germans are so adamant about defending Hezbollah’s “political” arm from censure. It does not boost our faith in their moral judgment.