The European Union is planning to vote on Thursday to blacklist Hezbollah’s “military wing” as a terrorist organization, while at the same time placing a stamp of approval on something they call the “Hezbollah political party.” The proposal, like most of the fun things coming out of the EU, is the brainchild of its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, EU diplomats told Reuters on Wednesday.
The vote Thursday comes in the wake of a statement by Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev, on the eve of the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver. The Bulgarian yes-Hezbollah, no-Hezbollah take on the attack had more to do with the changes in its hopelessly stalemated parliament, than with the facts as police investigators have been calling them.
So, for now, unless someone further to the left of him jumps in and says otherwise, Minister Yovchev is pointing the finger at Hezbollah for the deadly assault.
Speaking at a press conference in Bulgaria Wednesday, Yovchev said that his country stands by its findings that Hezbollah was behind the attack. He also stated clearly that additional evidence had become available corroborating the previous government’s findings, released in February, that Hezbollah was the mastermind.
A miracle in Sophia: both right- and left-wing Bulgarians now blame Hezbollah.
That’s a terrible thing Hezbollah has done, agrees the EU, or, mostly agrees foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, but, you know, Hezbollah is not only about terrorism. It’s a movement, and, in fact, it’s a great political movement, possibly the most dominant in Lebanon.
Conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran as a reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s, Hezbollah has since grown to acquire seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite television-station, and programs for social development for the poor Shiite in Lebanon, whom it is able to mobilize in demonstrations of hundreds of thousands. The national unity government formed in 2008 awarded Hezbollah and its allies eleven out of thirty cabinets seats, which means they have veto power over everything that goes on in that country.
In other words, from an EU point of view—at least as expressed by some members—you cut your ties with Hezbollah—you might as well cut off all of Lebanon. The country would become destabilized (Hezbollah knows destabilizing) and all the development projects and investments there could be lost.
In May, the U.K. asked for Hezbollah to be put on the EU terror list, citing the evidence we’re all familiar with that it was behind the deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last year.
The British proposal has now gained new urgency, following reports of Hezbollah’s deep involvement in the Syrian civil war, on the side of the despot al-Assad who makes a habit of sending his airforce to bomb civilians, in addition to the run-of-the-mill artillery shelling.
Diplomats say France and Germany support the British proposal. But the vote on blacklisting requires a unanimous vote, and, according to a recent Reuters report, Austria, the Czech Republic and Ireland have been voicing their reservations.
Two EU diplomats told Reuters the new, creative (shall we say “ingenious”?) proposal suggests including a statement that, while condemning the terrorist arm of Hezbollah in no uncertain words, the EU “should continue dialogue with all political parties in Lebanon” and maintain funding to Beirut.
“The proposal on the table makes it clear the EU is serious about responding to terrorist attacks on its soil,” a diplomat, from a country in favor of blacklisting Hezbollah, told Reuters. But, naturally, dialog must go on with the civilian Hezbollah.
Obviously, the Ashton gang back in Brussels is taking a page out of the playbook of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, where the British government accepted and negotiated with Sinn Féin as the political arm of the IRA, even while all the other arms of the same group were planting bombs in London.
But Hezbollah is no longer just a militia—it’s a country. To somehow divide between the military and political Hezbollah would require ignoring the fact that both are run by the same man: Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah. Ashton is actually proposing to create two avatars: Bad Nasrallah, condemned and blacklisted, and Good Nasrallah, political leader and an equal partner in negotiations between Lebanon and the EU.