Commentary Magazine


A Terror Blacklist in Name Only?

On Monday I wrote about the argument over whether it is in the interests of the West, and specifically America, for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union. The question really centers on the issue of integration; that is, whether Britain is more likely to successfully advocate for the Anglosphere from within the EU or whether it is more likely to be integrated into the EU’s value system, which is at odds with America’s.

Although recent stories suggested the latter, there are occasional indications of the former–one of which came yesterday from the Wall Street Journal. The paper reported that Britain is formally requesting that the EU add Hezbollah’s military wing to its terror blacklist. That effort received another boost today, as the Jerusalem Post reports that Germany is backing Britain’s request, making it all but certain that Hezbollah’s military wing will be blacklisted:

“In the light of discussions we have had with our partners following the terrorist attack in Burgas, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle supports listing at least the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the EU,” the officials said.

“The German position is based on an increasingly clearer picture of the facts and on the progress achieved by Cypriot authorities in analyzing terrorist activities,” they continued. “Minister Westerwelle hopes that the necessary consultations within the EU can be concluded rapidly.”

That report focuses the change of heart on the terrorist attack carried out last summer in Bulgaria on a bus of Israeli tourists. Initial signs pointed to Iran and Hezbollah, which are partners in global terror, and that was confirmed by the subsequent investigation which determined Hezbollah’s culpability.

The mention of Cypriot authorities is a reference to the recent revelations of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus that showed the pervasive presence of the terror group in Europe. But even after the Bulgaria attack and the Cyprus case, there seemed to be hesitation to take any steps against Hezbollah. I noted in February a sickening quote from a German magazine editor who said officials were afraid that if they took action against Hezbollah the group might target non-Jews.

Additionally, the Journal article notes the concern of some EU officials that since Hezbollah is a powerful political presence in Lebanon, blacklisting them “could undermine a fragile peace in Lebanon.” That’s unlikely, but it at least gets closer geographically to the answer, which the EU Observer points to:

Its support for the Syrian regime has further blackened its name.

Up to 6,000 Hezbollah fighters are said to be in Damascus, where they guard the Sayyidah Zaynab mosque, and in the Syrian towns of Homs and Qusayr near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hezbollah is currently serving as a ruthless standing army for Bashar al-Assad in his murderous quest to hang on to power in Syria. As I noted earlier Monday, that in itself will destabilize Lebanon–or, more accurately, stabilize Lebanon more firmly under Hezbollah/Syrian/Iranian control. Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian civil war has thus removed one EU excuse not to blacklist the group and added a very good reason to outlaw them.

The Journal reports that the next step will be an EU-wide closed-door meeting in early June. Britain is pairing this move with one intended to make it easier to aid the Syrian rebels. Blacklisting Hezbollah’s military wing would be a step in the right direction, though as the New York Times reports, it would almost surely be a vastly weaker step–and more difficult to enforce–than an outright ban:

Still, many experts question the strategy of simply taking aim at Hezbollah’s military wing, arguing that it is impossible to separate the part of the organization that engages in politics and social services from the group’s large armed militia. Moreover, if only the so-called military wing is blacklisted, the group might still be able raise money in Europe under the banner of politics.

The Times then quotes a foreign affairs expert casting doubt on the efficacy of just listing the military wing. The separation between the military and political wings exists on paper, but it’s unclear if it goes much farther. If it doesn’t, then the blacklist would also only exist on paper. And the consequences of not effectively confronting Hezbollah’s activities have unfortunately been made all too clear in Europe, the Middle East, and around the world.