Europe May Act Against Hezbollah After Bulgaria Terror Bombing Probe

Investigation Blames Lebanese Group in Airport Attack

Stiffer Sanctions? Hezbollah has long been a prime suspect in the Bulgaria airport terror bombing that killed several Israelis last summer. Now that an official probe has named the Lebanese group, it may face stiffer European sanctions.
haaretz
Stiffer Sanctions? Hezbollah has long been a prime suspect in the Bulgaria airport terror bombing that killed several Israelis last summer. Now that an official probe has named the Lebanese group, it may face stiffer European sanctions.

By Nathan Guttman and Donald Snyder

Published February 15, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
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“The EU has to take a stand and list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” said Philipp Missfelder, the ruling Christian Democratic party’s parliamentary spokesman on foreign policy, in a statement. “A clear position from Europe is overdue.”

Political rivals dispute this idea. Dietmar Nietan, a Social Democratic member of the Bundestag said in a September 6 interview that outlawing Hezbollah is not the right path to take.

“At the end of the day, the problem of terrorism is not solved by declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” he said. “We need communication channels not blanket condemnations.”

Shortly after the Burgas attack, Jewish leaders began urging the Bulgarian government not to fear citing Hezbollah as the culprit, if the evidence was clear.

In Britain, which has been the most forthcoming European nation on this issue, Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly asked the local Jewish community to “make a noise” and lead a grassroots campaign to push for a European designation.

The United Kingdom has been advocating that Europe adopt a dual approach toward Hezbollah similar to the one the U.K. itself maintains: ban the group’s military arm but avoid a comprehensive designation that would include Hezbollah’s political and welfare activities. This approach, explained Karen Betts, a representative for the United Kingdom ‘s Joint Intelligence Committee in Washington’s British embassy, stems from both Britain’s own recent historical experience and from practical political considerations. The path to resolving the civil war in Northern Ireland, she said, led British leaders to appreciate the need to maintain an open channel for future political engagement. “Hezbollah,” she said, “could one day be a real force for stability in Lebanon.”

Betts added that differentiating between the military and political wings of Hezbollah would also make it easier to convince other European nations to designate the group’s military branch as a terror group.

Levitt predicted that the Burgas investigation is likely to be only the “first shoe to fall.” The second would be a much-anticipated trial in Cyprus, where a Hezbollah activist confessed to scouting potential sites for attacks against Israeli tourists. “A conviction,” former counterterrorism adviser Benjamin said, “would go a long way in meeting Europe’s desire to have courtroom evidence… of Lebanon’s Hezbollah activity in Europe.”

Staff writer Nathan Guttman reported from Washington; contributing editor Don Snider reported from Greenwitch, Conn.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or follow on Twitter @nathanguttman.

Contact Donald Snyder at feedback@forward.com


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