EU and Hezbollah flags (Al-Manar, July 22, 2013)
1. On July 22, 2013, the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU unanimously agreed to add Hezbollah's military wing to its list of terrorist organizations. According to the official announcement, it will not prevent the continuation of dialogue with all political parties in Lebanon. The EU also agreed that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of assistance from the European Union and its member states would not be affected. The position will be reviewed on a 6 monthly basis, which is the normal timeframe for review in circumstances such as this (Remarks by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, Document A 395/13, July 22, 2013). According to the media, the significance of the announcement is that the EU's 28 member states and their governments will be forbidden to transfer funds to Hezbollah, its assets will be frozen and its operatives will be not be allowed to travel to Europe.
2. The decision to add Hezbollah's military wing to the EU's list of terrorist organizations came after ongoing diplomatic and information activities carried out to convince the EU's foreign ministers. The vote became unanimous after Ireland and Austria reversed their objections. According to the New York Times, Britain led the diplomatic efforts, especially after the terrorist attack in Bulgaria in July 2012 and after a Hezbollah operative was caught in Cyprus while making preparations for a similar attack (February 2013). EU support to designate Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organization recently increased after Hezbollah sent fighters to Syria to support the Assad regime's forces in their war against the opposition (New York Times, July 22, 2013). A contributing factor was the statement made by Tsvetlin Yovchev, the Bulgarian minister of the interior, who told reporters that "There are clear signs that say Hezbollah is behind the Burgas bombing."
3. Throughout its 30-year existence, Hezbollah has systematically and methodically carried out terrorist attacks in the Middle East and around the globe. In most instances Hezbollah has not claimed responsibility for them, although in some instances it has used the names of fictitious organizations to claim responsibility or simply denied involvement. It has been done to keep from incriminating itself and to ensure that neither it nor Iran becomes a target for reprisal. However, the interrogation of Hezbollah operatives captured in various countries over the past 30 years, academic researchers, articles by experts and reliable intelligence information all expose the terrorist nature of Hezbollah and its role as the preferred proxy of Iran, which is the number one exporter of terrorism in the world. To carry out terrorist attacks abroad Hezbollah established a designated apparatus, called the Unit for Overseas Operations. Hassan Nasrallah is the overall commander of the apparatus, and carrying out terrorist attacks abroad necessitates his personal authorization.
The Artificial Distinction between Hezbollah's Military and. Political Wings
4. The EU decision distinguishes between Hezbollah's military wing and its political wing (as opposed to the United States, which designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization in 1995). The distinction it is artificial and does not actually exist (even senior Hezbollah figures have made it clear that they themselves do not distinguish between the organization's military and political wings). In effect, both wings are commanded by Hassan Nasrallah and are interconnected. Hezbollah's military force strengthens its political force in Lebanon's internal affairs, while its political and social activities reinforce its military-terrorist infrastructure.
5. Ideologically, Hezbollah is an organization which fits the definition of a terrorist organization. It makes deliberate use of violence against civilians to achieve political objectives, and jihad (the so-called "resistance") is a central value in its ideology. One of its founding principles is the legitimacy of terrorism, sanctioned by Iran, is the ongoing and determined terrorist campaign against Israel for the so-called "liberation of Jerusalem" and the destruction of the State of Israel. Another founding principle is its deep, abiding hatred for the United States ("the great Satan") and the West in general, manifested by its support for the Iranian regime's terrorist attacks abroad and its involvement in the fighting in Syria.
Initial Responses to the EU Decision
6. Israel applauded the decision:
1) Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu welcomed the decision and thanked the leaders of the member states. He said that "[i]n recent years, the State of Israel has invested great effort in explaining to all EU member states that Hezbollah is the terrorist arm of the Iranian regime and perpetrates attacks around the world."
2) Israeli President Shimon Peres sent letters to the leaders of the EU, in which he wrote that he welcomed the EU's decision, calling it "a significant and necessary step towards putting an end to the spread of terror across the globe."
3) Minister of Defense Yaalon said that the EU's decision would improve the struggle against Hezbollah, and that it would be possible to increase intelligence cooperation between countries regarding Hezbollah (Israel Reshet Bet Radio, July 22, 2013).
7. Hezbollah rejected any attempt to blame it for terrorist attacks carried out in Europe and accused the Europeans of surrendering to the dictates of the Americans and the "Zionists:"
1) Hezbollah said in an announcement that the organization rejected the EU decision, claiming it was "hostile and deprived [Hezbollah], and not based on proof." Hezbollah claimed that the decision was the result of the EU's surrender to pressure from the United States and Israel, and that it was "written by an American hand in Zionist ink." In addition, according to the announcement, the decision did not reflect the interests of the people of Europe and their values, which were based on independence and liberty (Al-Manar, July 22, 2013).
2) According to the Hezbollah media, the decision was "not worth the ink it was written with" (Al-Manar, July 22, 2013), and it was a vindictive anti-Hezbollah Zionist-American-European decision (Al-Ahed, July 22, 2013).
8. Iran was critical of the EU decision. A spokesman for the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs held a press conference where he called it "a strange and ill-considered decision," which served the interests of Israel and would only make the situation in the Middle East more complicated. Not only that, he said, the decision would not change the identity of Hezbollah, as a "popular organization seeking justice" (Agence France-Presse, July 23, 2013).
Initial Assessment of the Decision's Practical Significance
9. In our assessment, the EU's decision may have practical influence on the war on Hezbollah's international terrorism. That is because even if the decision is not perfect, it makes Hezbollah's identity as a terrorist organization more manifest and gives governments and law enforcement authorities better tools to cope with Hezbollah in the spheres of prevention, intelligence, and political, legal and economic issues. It may make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prevent Hezbollah operatives from entering European countries, to detain the operatives already there, to make intelligence cooperation more effective and to bring operatives to trial. It will also make it more difficult to transfer contributions and money obtained from criminal activities to the organization.
10. In addition, in our assessment the EU decision may erode Hezbollah's legitimacy in Lebanon and limit its freedom of action, especially in the current sensitive situation in which internal criticism of Hezbollah is increasing because of its involvement in the civil war in Syria (accompanied by attempts to attack Hezbollah). Hezbollah's opponents in Lebanon, especially the Sunnis and a great part of the Christian camp, can be expected to be more vigorous in labeling it as a terrorist organization, make greater demands to dismantle the vast military-terrorist infrastructure it built in Lebanon with Iranian and Syrian support, and claim that its participation in the government may harm Lebanon and brand it as a state that sponsors a terrorist organization.
Selected Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Bulletins about Hezbollah and Iranian Terrorist Activity (2012-2013)
Terrorist Activity around the Globe
1. June 6, 2013 – The findings of a report released by the U.S. Department of State indicate that in 2012 there was a marked resurgence of Iran’s terrorist activity across the globe, both directly and through its proxies.
2. February 21, 2013 – Admission of a Hezbollah operative asked to collect information about sites frequented by Israeli tourists and their transportation made public by Cyprus.
3. February 18, 2013 –Argentina and Iran have agreed to hold a joint investigation of the terrorist attack on the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires.
4. February 7, 2013 – The report issued by Bulgaria about the terrorist attack in Burgas clearly indicates that Hezbollah was involved in its planning and execution.
5. February 5, 2013 – Bulgaria reportedly issues an account accusing Hezbollah of the terrorist attack in Burgas.
6. November 29, 2012 Hezbollah, Portrait of a Terrorist Organization.
7. April 18, 2012 – Latin America as a Terrorist, Subversive, Criminal Arena for Iran and Hezbollah.
8. February 16, 2012 – Iranian and Hezbollah Terrorist Attacks against Israeli Targets Abroad The Situation on the Ground and Background Information (February 15, 2012).
Hezbollah's Involvement in the Fighting in Syria
9. June 27, 2013 – Hezbollah Operatives Killed in Syria – Update
10. June 19, 2013 – Following the victory at Al-Qusayr Hezbollah is preparing to support the Syrian army forces to take over Aleppo.
11. June 4, 2013 – Hezbollah Involvement in the Syrian Civil War
Hezbollah as an Iranian Proxy
12. August 7, 2012 – The Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, spearheads Iran's global terrorist campaign.
13. June 17, 2012 – Hezbollah as the strategic long arm of the Iranian regime
For further information about designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and a survey of the terrorist attacks it has carried out, see the Terrorism Information Center, November 29, 2012 bulletin “Hezbollah, Portrait of a Terrorist Organization.”