Wednesday, February 06, 2013

5-Feb-13: Now that the Bulgarians have fingered Hezbollah, what happens next in Europe?

CNN's take
Reuters and almost everyone else in the global news industry reported today that the Bulgarian investigation into the bombing of an airport bus filled with Israeli tourists last summer has concluded. And there is a clear finding.
Bulgaria blames Hezbollah in bomb attack on Israeli tourists  
SOFIA | Tue Feb 5, 2013 1:43pm EST (Reuters) | Bulgaria accused Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah on Tuesday of carrying out a bomb attack on a bus in the Black Sea city of Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists last year. The conclusions of the Bulgarian investigation, citing a clear connection to an attack on European Union soil, might open the way for the EU to join the United States in branding the Iranian-backed Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Three people were involved in the attack, two of whom had genuine passports from Australia and Canada, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters after Sofia's national security council discussed the investigation. "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects," Tsvetanov said. "What can be established as a well-grounded assumption is that the two persons whose real identity has been determined belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah."
It's not such a surprising outcome to the six month long investigation. That's a conclusion that we hope comes through in a compelling way when you review some of posts we published here in the wake of the Burgas airport murders. For instance

More surprising (by far) than the conclusion of the Bulgarians is the performance of the French and the German governments, widely reported to be obstructing efforts to get the European Union to ban Hezbollah from Europe and proscribe them for being the terrorist organization that everyone knows they are.

Why, if everyone knows the true character of Hezbollah, is there any doubt about whether they are going to be outlawed in Europe? 

Because (a) they have not been outlawed until now; (b) it's really about European politics and not about right/wrong, not about life/death, not about protecting their own citizens in the usual physical sense of the word 'protecting'; (c) even the most repugnant of hideous child-killer organizations have their supporters and/or open minded observers willing to give them another chance; and (d) as Wyre Davies, the BBC's Middle East correspondent writes today on behalf of the French standpoint: "Hezbollah is a political and social as well as a militant organisation... proscribing it as an illegal terrorist organisation could destabilise Lebanon" - a fear that clearly outweighs the risk of innocent people being killed in some people's value hierarchy

On the other hand, America's counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said today Hezbollah posed 
"a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world" [and therefore Europe and the world should seek] "to disrupt the group's financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks"...
For a horse's mouth view of why the EU is unlikely to ban Hezbollah even after they are shown to be a 
religiously-inflamed murdering, rampaging, armed-to-the-teeth army of thugs with a messianic zeal to rid the world of those who think differently, see "EU official: Hezbollah unlikely to get on terrorism blacklist" which we analyzed in a blog posted here a week ago.

For those of our readers who have plans to do dinner with the prime ministers of France or Germany in the next few weeks, here's a brief overview of the Hezbollah profile about which their countries are in fierce denial. Someone needs to talk very bluntly to those politicians so they can comprehend the magnitude of their mistaken strategies:
  1. Hezbollah is an agent of Iranian policy. The Iranians use Hezbollah as their principal proxy via the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and other Iranian government instrumentalities. Hezbollah's focus shifts "according to Iranian and Hezbollah considerations" and includes Israel, the Jewish people, the US, certain other Western countries, Syria and Iran's opponents in Lebanon and in Syria, Arab states and statelets hostile to Iran, and numerous others. A valuable guide can be found in "Hezbollah: Portrait of a Terrorist Organization", a detailed November 2012 dossier prepared by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, in Israel. 
  2. Hezbollah's forces have committed terrorism against the United States (which proscribed them as terrorists in 1997) for three decades, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut; the 1984 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut; the 1985 hijacking of TWA's Flight 847; the murder of a U.S. Navy diverthe kidnapping and protracted video-taped torture of William Buckley and Marine Colonel Rich Higgins in the mid eighties, and eventually their murders; and their central role in terror attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. Up until 9/11, they were the US's most serious terrorist foe.
  3. In Argentina, they carried out (with their Iranian allies) huge bomb attacks against the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires in 1994
  4. Hezbollah has been, and continues to be, the party behind sophisticated and large-scale destabilization and terrorist actions across the Middle EastIn Iraq, Hezbollah has been behind attacks on US, Canadian and coalition forces. It has trained thousands of men from the so-called Mahdi Army, a Shi'ite militia, and equipped them and other Iraqi terrorist factions with explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs. The June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residential complex iSaudi Arabia has Hezbollah fingerprints all over itIn Syria, Hezbollah's men are fighting on behalf of the blood-soaked despot Bashar al-Assad and his murderous regime (see "UN confirms Hezbollah fighting for Assad in Syria", December 2012); Hezbollah operatives were indicted by the U.N.-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2011 for the murder in 2005 of Lebanon's prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah has been repeatedly linked to attacks on UN peace-keeping forces in southern Lebanon. In Bahrain, Hezbollahis linked to 2012 bombings and terrorist plots. In Egypt, authorities arrested 49 operatives they linked to Hezbollah in 2009 (BBC - "Egyptian security forces are scouring the Sinai Peninsula for 13 alleged Hezbollah operatives"). In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Hezbollah took a central role in rearming the Palestinian Arab terrorists after their routing at the hands of Israel. In Turkey, an attack was made on the life of Israel's consul David Kimchi in Istanbul on May 26, 2011; it failed but eight Turkish civilians were injured; the Italian paper Corriere della Sera said the attempted assassination was executed by three Hezbollah operatives who arrived from Beirut. Agents of Iran and Hezbollah were behind at least 10 global terrorist plots against Israelis during 2012 alone: against Israeli tourists in Cyprus; against Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Singapore; against Israelis in Thailand; and others. 
To state the obvious, this is an extremely selective and very incomplete list.

Of course, there is almost always a different way of looking at things that seem clear to the rest of us. Even the most ruthless and amoral of terrorist organizations have their fans. Of course, in the world of transnational politics, the players don't call themselves 'fans'. They prefer a far more genteel selection of violence-embracing terms, along with a sophisticated, close-to-non-judgmental mindset. This is why it is so inspiring to see (as we noted herelast week's thoughtful and plain-speaking op ed in the Times of London memorably entitled "Don’t mince words. Hezbollah are terrorists". 

In that essay, José María Aznar who was was prime minister of Spain from 1996 until a few days after the Madrid railway massacre of 2004, and Lord Trimble, First Minister of Northern Ireland between 1998 and 2002 and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1998, explain why certain European states have held back from condemning Hezbollah:
We understand the caution of nations that have citizens living in Lebanon or peacekeeping troops deployed there. But fear cannot be a substitute for moral clarity. We need to remember that Unifil II (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) was deployed in 2006 to disarm Hezbollah, not to become its hostage... Hezbollah is already present and active on European soil; its illegal activities and networks cover the continent. It has shown that it is willing to strike in Europe. That is why European governments must move now to stigmatise Hezbollah and its activities, vision and goals... Jihadi terrorism is still alive and, as events in Mali and Algeria show us, poses a direct threat to us. The turmoil in North Africa reminds us that jihadism has no boundaries and that when confronting terrorism it is always better to prevent it rather than deal with its consequences... 
In other words, enough with the understanding. Sometimes you just have to draw the line and do what has to be done to keep everything you value safe.

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