July 26, 2013 | Policy Brief

Follow-Up Needed After the EU’s Hezbollah Ban

The European Union (EU) dealt a blow to the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah earlier this week, blacklisting the organization’s military wing. The EU was wise to focus its attention on the Iran-backed organization’s activities in Europe. However, without taking steps to ensure all Hezbollah entities are banned, this small victory is a pyrrhic one, permitting the false distinction between the faction’s military and other wings.

Hezbollah itself has acknowledged that it is not a bifurcated entity. In 2012, Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem said, “We don't have a military wing and a political one; we don't have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other.” In 2009, Qassem told the Los Angeles Times, “Hezbollah has a single leadership…. All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership.”

U.S. law reflects this reality. Washington has already banned Hezbollah in its entirety including its military, political, financial and media entities. However, Washington should now use secondary sanctions powers to target all of the global components of Hezbollah, especially those who provide any support to any Hezbollah persons or entities. The global campaign against al-Manar, designated by the US government in 2006, provides a model for this approach.

Using the EU designation as a springboard, Congress and the Administration now have the opportunity to use its designation and secondary sanctions authorities to target all of Hezbollah's political, commercial, and fundraising arms in Europe and around the world. Doing so can lay the groundwork for crucial follow-up designations by the EU. 

To be sure, Europe is not the final frontier for Hezbollah’s activity.  For example, in April 2013, Bahrain blacklisted Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The Bahraini government has since tasked the interior and foreign ministries with implementing policies to support this decision. In addition, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has decided to blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist group, and it is studying ways to do that.

Hezbollah is also active in Africa. Nigerian authorities recently broke up a Hezbollah cell in May, seizing a large quantity of weapons. The US Treasury Department has designated at least six African Hezbollah operatives.  The African Union should be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of the EU and GCC.

The EU’s designation was an important step in the global fight against Hezbollah. But given the global threats posed by Hezbollah, it should not be the last. 

Toby Dershowitz is vice president for government relations and strategy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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