Wednesday, January 30, 2013

30-Jan-13: In fighting terrorism, fear cannot be a substitute for moral clarity: Two political figures speak from personal experiences of terror

Trimble and Aznar [Image Source]
We posted here yesterday ["29-Jan-13: What their view on Hezbollah tells us about Europe's counter-terrorism strategy"] about the European Union's pusillanimous stance on banning one of the world's most dangerous and active terror organizations, Hezbollah.

The Times of London has a leading op ed column today written by two former political figures who have deep first-hand experience of terrorism. In their essay, entitled "Don’t mince words. Hezbollah are terrorists", 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, begin with the antithesis to yesterday's Guardian op ed about which we blogged last night: "29-Jan-13: Is the threat of terrorism greater now, or less?". They open with these words:
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. 
As we noted yesterday, the EU prefers not to face the reality of terrorism. Trimble and Aznar point to what is and is not being done about Hezbollah to make their case. About last summer's terrorist bombing in Bulgaria of a bus-load of Israelis, they point out that
despite this atrocity some European governments are not willing to declare Hezbollah a security threat and put it on the EU terrorist list. This refusal is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the group. Hezbollah is not just a Lebanese militia group and political party. It is the long arm of Iran. From its conception by Tehran in 1982, it has been committed to the revolutionary goals of the international expansion of Shia Islam, as dreamt of by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The fact that it holds seats in the Lebanese Parliament and posts in the Cabinet does not mean that its leaders see themselves as just another Lebanese faction — albeit one that murders its political opponents (a UN tribunal found that the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister was a Hezbollah plot). On the contrary Hezbollah has a global vision and reach. It has perpetrated attacks in places as distant as Argentina, Georgia, Israel, Thailand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as Lebanon. It has been involved in illegal but very lucrative activities in Latin America and West Africa. 
They then address a dimension of this issue that often drives us crazy - the willingness of many to make an artificial distinction between the so-called "military wing" of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and their political, charitable and who-knows-what-other front activities. People who think like that, say the authors, are wrong. Hezbollah is a single body and needs to be condemned and blacklisted in all its manifestations:
...Every part plays a role in the overall strategy. The leaders in charge of its hospitals and schools, the military leader and the political representatives all sit together under the secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah. His deputy, Naim Qassem, was quoted as recently as October, saying: “We don’t have a military wing and a political wing. We don’t have the Party of Allah and the Party of Resistance. These differences do not exist and are rejected.” Hezbollah is committed to violent revolution. It sees itself as being in total confrontation with our way of life. The idea that engaging Hezbollah through the Lebanese political process and institutions would moderate it has proved to be a dangerous illusion. And today it is actively intervening in Syria on behalf of Bashar Assad; we will know soon about the atrocities conducted by its militants there... We know from our own experience in Spain and Northern Ireland that terrorism cannot be defeated unless you tackle all the tentacles that serve the purposes of the terrorists, and that includes the political and financial front organisations. Make no mistake — terrorist groups use all the means at their disposal to survive, flourish and achieve their plans.
About the claim by certain European governments that this is somehow not the right time to put Hezbollah on the EU terrorist list, they correctly ask:
But what more is needed to let us take such a decision? Official bodies, private research, parliamentary inquiries, one after another, have revealed the terrorist connections.
Addressing one of the reasons European states have held back from condemning Hezbollah, they write
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.
What more must happen before that view is heard and comprehended?

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