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Hezbollah: From terrorism to war crimes

By Ben Cohen/

An unexpected obstacle to
efforts within the European Union (EU) to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization
emerged last week when the new Bulgarian foreign minister, Kristian Vigenin,
stated in a radio interview that evidence connecting the Lebanese Shi’a
organization with last year’s murderous assault on a busload of Israeli
tourists in the resort town of Burgas was “not conclusive.”

Click photo to download. Caption: The flag of Hezbollah flies in Syria, where Hezbollah has become
an active element in a civil war that has claimed the lives of 80,000 people. Credit: Hezbollah Flag/Wikimedia Commons.

Vigenin produced no new
evidence to counter the conclusion, shared by American, Israeli and British
intelligence agencies, that Hezbollah was behind the attack. Yet by casting
doubt on Hezbollah’s role, Vigenin has opened the possibility that the bitter
political divides within this comparatively marginal member of the EU could
impact the bloc’s Middle East policy as a whole.

For several years, Europe
has been out of step with the United States and Israel over Hezbollah. Not
applying the terrorist designation to Hezbollah has meant that the organization’s
supporters in Europe have been able to raise funds for it with impunity. The
Burgas attack provided new momentum for British efforts to secure a reversal of
this ghastly policy, especially as Bulgaria’s previous, pro-western government
was in no doubt over who was responsible. Only a fortnight ago, France and
Germany, two countries that had long been resistant to the terrorist
designation, were signaling a major change of position.

Enter the new Bulgarian
government, a coalition of technocrats and ex-Communists elected on the basis
of public anger with the perceived corruption and incompetence of the prior
administration. Those who detect the hand of Russia in this bizarre twist over
Burgas are probably not wrong. In eastern Europe these days, governments who
distance themselves from America and western Europe are bound to veer towards
Moscow. And Moscow doesn’t want anyone to touch Hezbollah, given the military
support these terrorists and war criminals have given to the Syrian regime of
Bashar al-Assad, which President Vladimir Putin and his cohorts energetically

This messy political context
may, ironically, yield a positive result, in that it’s unlikely that the rest
of the EU, and particularly the British, will feel obliged to take Bulgaria’s clumsy
change of heart seriously. Moreover, the Burgas attack is not the only reason
to apply the terrorist designation. For one thing, the British government has
repeatedly cited the conviction of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus, Hossam
Taleb Yaacoub, for conspiring to launch a Burgas-style attack against Israeli
tourists visiting the island—a plan which one terrorism analyst described as “a rare lifting of the veil on how [Hezbollah terrorists]

For another—and this is certainly of
even greater importance—Hezbollah has become an active element in Assad’s murderous
war on his own people, which has claimed 80,000 lives. Without the support of
Hezbollah units, it is unlikely that Assad’s regime could have conquered rebel
forces in the western town of Qusair, an outcome that further boosted Assad’s
morale in a week when his Russian allies announced that they would be providing
his regime with S-300 air defense missiles.

Indeed, the French have
already suggested that policy towards Hezbollah will be determined by events in
Syria, rather than the …read more

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Posted by on June 11, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.