The White House is piling pressure on the EU to ban Hezbollah after Bulgarian authorities linked it to a bomb blast in Burgas which killed six people last year. The intended target was a group of Israeli tourists, of which five died in the attack along with their Bulgarian bus driver. An extensive investigation lasting more than six months identified the Lebanese terrorist group as the culprits. ‘Europe can no longer ignore the threat that this group poses to the Continent and to the world,’ wrote President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Thomas Donilon, in the New York Times. He continued:
‘The Bulgarian investigation has once again proved to the world what Hezbollah has tried for years to hide: that it remains engaged in international terrorist attacks against civilians.
‘European governments must respond swiftly. They must disrupt [Hezbollah’s] operational networks, stop flows of financial assistance to the group, crack down on Hezbollah-linked criminal enterprises and condemn the organization’s leaders for their continued pursuit of terrorism.’
Donilon echoes the sentiments of John Brennan who told an audience in Ireland last November that the ongoing refusal to ban Hezbollah in Europe makes ‘it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens’.
The EU has long resisted such calls, arguing that Hezbollah consists of two entirely separate and distinct wings – where one is ‘political’ and another which is ‘military.’ This sophistry was debunked in a recent report by the Henry Jackson Society which explains the group’s pernicious global influence, its attacks on Western interests, and centralised structure.
It is telling that while European governments impute a ‘political’ and ‘military’ distinction into Hezbollah’s structure, the group recognises no such distinction itself. Yet Hezbollah is more than happy to welcome the EU’s entirely artificial distinction. Its Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, has warned that a European ban would ‘destroy’ the group because ‘the sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed’.
Only the Netherlands has argued against the present consensus in Europe. With direct evidence of Hezbollah now claiming civilian lives in an EU member state, calls to ban the group must surely prove unstoppable.