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Dangerous Liaisons: Europe Should Cut Off Hezbollah

12:54 PM, Nov 19, 2012 • By ILANA DECKER
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After a year and a half of conflict, and despite some 40,000 deaths, the world still stands impotent to end the bloodshed in Syria. With Russia and China reviving their recurring role as United Nations Security Council obstructionists, concerned countries have been forced to seek out meaningful measures of their own. And while the United States and Europe have been unified on sanctions designed to cut off funding to the Assad regime, the Europeans have left one main artery of support pumping. It’s time for the European Union to designate Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and in so doing, cut off one of the only reliable lifelines Assad has left.

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According to the U.S. State Department, Hezbollah has since the early days of the current unrest been providing “training, advice and extensive logistical support” to the Assad regime. America’s U.N. ambassador Susan Rice has called Hezbollah operatives “part of Assad’s killing machine” who “prop up a murderous and desperate dictator.”  And in a newly released letter, a group of 20 Syrian dissidents, activists and rebels, some of whom are still risking their lives in Syria, have themselves implored the EU to designate and sanction Hezbollah for its “cynical and barbaric support of a mass murdering regime.”

While Hezbollah draws the bulk of its funds from Iran and Syria, it freely and openly raises financial support on European soil, with grave consequence. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah himself has said that EU designation “would dry up the sources of finance” and “end moral, political and material support” to Hezbollah.  

While the Netherlands has joined the United States, Canada, and Australia in designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization in its entirety, it is the sole European country to have done so. United Kingdom policy draws a specious and dangerous distinction between Hezbollah’s “military” and “political” wings, barring activity only of the former within its borders. The UK plays along with Hezbollah’s ruse to pose internationally as a social and political movement at our peril; as the newly released Syrian letter underscores, “the fact that Nasrallah is the sole political leader of Hezbollah… should be proof enough to end this nonsensical distinction.”

Arguments against an EU designation of Hezbollah center primarily around two stated concerns.  The first is that there is not enough “evidence” of Hezbollah’s link to terror.  The Cypriot foreign minister has stated, “Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.” In the words of the French foreign minister, “[A]n organization can be placed on the terrorist list only when there is a legal case against them, which is not currently the case.”  The ultimate irony here of course is that Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French barracks in Beirut, resulting in the deaths of 58 French soldiers along with 241 American servicemen, and that a Lebanese man with links to Hezbollah was arrested just this past July for attempting to carry out attacks on Israelis on Cypriot soil.  

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