Monday, July 22, 2013

22-Jul-13: One of Hezbollah's "wings", the terrorist one, is finally outlawed in Europe

Hezbollah, one of Iran's proxy armies in the complex Middle East and beyond it, was today officially designated a terrorist organization by the European Union. 

A gathering of EU foreign ministers in Brussels this morning made the decision unanimously. We can now finally expect the process of seizing and freezing their assets to get underway, and to see their officials subject to travel bans and unable to meet with EU officials – and not before time. How effective this will be is a subject arousing considerable disagreement.

The fact of Hezbollah’s fingerprints on the callous murders of Israeli tourists at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport in 2012 was one of the factors that evidently pushed the EU Ministers over the edge. Another factor was the conviction in Cyprus earlier this year of Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a confessed Hezbollah agent traveling on Swedish and Lebanese passports, who had been engaged in preparatory work in advance of a terror act on that island. And probably the Nigerian case on which we recently commented. And there's this too, as the NYTimes points out
Support for the sanctions against Hezbollah grew in recent months because of the group’s strong support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria... 
Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party (and foreign minister until recently) was critical of the EU choosing to ban Hezbollah's so-called "military wing" only:
The military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah are two sides of the same coin. At the head of each stands Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. The attempt to present the group as if it is partially extremist and partially moderate is like asking whether a cannibal can be a vegetarian. [Ynet]
The Christian Science Monitor's analyst sees the point. The distinction
allows officials and diplomats from European countries to continue meeting with Hezbollah’s “political” leaders, such as parliamentarians.[CSM]
Hezbollah's fuehrer, Nasrallah, adopting a customary tone of hubris and contempt, said
If Europe sees that Hezbollah is so significant to change regional equations then we are more than proud of this. As for their terror list, I have one thing to say to them: you can soak your list and drink its water... [CSM]
Hezbollah fuehrer Nasrallah holding up his two wings.
One of them was outlawed in Europe today
He may yet have his defenders: for instance, the director of the CIA, John Brennan. Back in 2010, Reuters quoted these statements of Brennan's about the Hezbollah leadership when he was assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism and had just come back from Lebanon:
"Hezbollah is a very interesting organization," Brennan told a Washington conference, citing its evolution from "purely a terrorist organization" to a militia to an organization that now has members within the parliament and the cabinet. "There is certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what they're doing. And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements," Brennan said. He did not spell out how Washington hoped to promote "moderate elements"... [Reuters, May 18, 2010
Brennan's assessment that Hezbollah is "interesting" is borne out via some selected quotations:
  • "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel" [“Little choice for a defiant Israel", in The Age, Melbourne. July 15, 2006]
  • "Israel is our enemy. This is an aggressive, illegal, and illegitimate entity, which has no future in our land. Its destiny is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel'." [Al-Manar television, February 2, 2005]
  • "Even if [an agreement] is signed, we will continue to view [Israel] as an illegitimate and illegal entity” [Al-Hayat, January 2, 2000]
  • "I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called "Israel." I consider its presence both unjust and unlawful." [The Washington Post. February 2, 2000]
  • "As we see, this is an illegal state; it is a cancerous entity and the root of all the crises and wars and cannot be a factor in bringing about a true and just peace in this region. Therefore, we cannot acknowledge the existence of a state called Israel, not even far in the future, as some people have tried to suggest. Time does not cancel the legitimacy of the Palestinian claim." [On Egyptian television, February 6, 2000
  • "I promise Israel that it will see more suicide attacks, for we will write our history with blood." [Speech at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut. December 31, 1999. [Source: Associated Press]
  • "If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." [Daily Star, Lebanon, October 23, 2002]
  • "A few years ago, a great French philosopher, Roger Garaudy, wrote a scientific book. He did not offend, curse, or insult anyone. He wrote a scientific research of an academic nature, in which he discussed the alleged Jewish Holocaust in Germany. He proved that this Holocaust is a myth." [Al-Jazeera. February 03, 2006]
  • "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute [...] Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America." [Al-Manar, September 27, 2002
  • "It is our pride that the Great Satan (U.S.) and the head of despotism, corruption and arrogance in modern times considers us as an enemy that should be listed in the terrorism list." [United Press International. November 4, 2001]
We don't know how hard or effectively Brennan and others of similar views tried to bring about greater moderation inside the Nasrallah-led, blood-soaked Party of Allah. What we do know is there will always be people (call them political figures) who will manage to stare the hatred-driven, violence-addicted jihadists right in the eye and - notwithstanding the vast pile of evidence in front of them - see the ongoing potential for making them, or at least one of their wings, more moderate.

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